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Somerville residents complain as trains block roadways, city officials remain at standstill

Posted at 5:31 PM, Feb 29, 2024

SOMERVILLE, Texas — Residents are complaining about trains blocking off parts of Somerville for minutes at a time, but there isn't much action city officials can take.

  • Long wait-times at railroad crossings has become a years-long battle between Somerville city officials and railroad company, BNSF.
  • The city used to be able to issue citations to violators, but according to federal law, they can't enforce time limits.
  • The city has taken complaints to BNSF corporate offices, but it believes reaching an agreement with the company, one of the largest freight railroad networks, could take years.

BROADCAST TRANSCRIPT:

Five minutes. 10 minutes. 15 minutes.

The wait is nothing new to Somerville resident Homer Burns.

Living right across the tracks, he's sometimes stuck on one side or the other when trains block the streets.

"They can't leave it like that no more cause you never know if you're gonna get back home. That's how bad it is," he said.

Now, he's fed up.

"Want to go to the doctor or something like that? They can't get across there," Burns said.

But the city is taking the issues up to corporate offices.

"Former mayors and city administrators have complained. Police chief has complained. There just seems to be reluctance on the railroad's part to address this," City Manager Danny Segundo said.

It's becoming a safety issue when emergency vehicles can't cross.

Texas law did allow Somerville Police to issue citations if a train blocked streets for more than 10 minutes.

But according to federal law, states can't enforce time limits.

I reached out to BNSF to see if they could explain why these stops keep happening.

But they tell me they're still looking into the incidents.

Segundo says the city's hands are tied.

"There is some action we can take on the legislative side or the legal side. However those are cost-prohibitive to the city at this point," he said.

But Burns has an idea to get around it.

"In Caldwell or Brenham, they got an underpass. You don't have to wait," Burns said.