By David Kapitan
A little less than two months after its closure due to damages suffered when a Union Pacific train pulling 101 cars collided with a disabled tanker truck hauling fuel, the Wills Point City Council and Union Pacific came to a decision Tuesday night on the future of the Lybrand Railroad Crossing (also known as the Ash Crossing).
Council members opened up discussion on the crossing by allowing audience members that signed up for public forum to address the matter.
Chester Hall advised council members and those in attendance that he distributed flyers around the Wills Point area (in local businesses), requesting signatures of those against the closure of the crossing.
Over the course of the “six-seven days” the flyers were out, Hall collected 1,647 signatures.
He noted, “The Lybrand Crossing is a vital artery for this city,” adding, “I’m just praying that you’ll [the city council] all be in agreement.”
Other speakers echoed the sentiment, adding, “Once the crossing is gone, it won’t come back.”
Andrew Hudanish, manager of Industry and Public Projects for Union Pacific, also made a presentation to the council on Tuesday night, outlining the city’s options on the Lybrand Crossing.
Hudanish advised council members that Union Pacific is currently in the midst of several projects in the area, including upgrading the crossings and adding new siding outside of town for trains to pass.
Hudanish noted that, according to formulas used by both Union Pacific and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), a town of 3,500 people normally only requires two crossings.
Union Pacific and TxDOT had previously examined Wills Point, and considered the elimination of the 5th Street Crossing.
The train-tractor trailer accident on August 23, however, brought the Lybrand Crossing “into the spotlight.”
Hudanish said if council members voted to keep the Lybrand Crossing closed, the city would receive $160,000 from TxDOT and an extra $20,000 from Union Pacific.
The money from TxDOT could only be used on certain projects (including the needed repairs of the collapsed sewer line running under 4th Street), while the money from Union Pacific could be used anywhere the city deemed fit.
Council members asked about the possibility of moving the crossing in alignment with Lybrand Street, but were advised that the city would have to fund the project entirely without any assistance from TxDOT or Union Pacific.
Council members Randy Adams, Mike Jones, and Paul Addison all echoed a similar sentiment, raising public safety concerns and the possible need for fire or emergency services when a train is parked on the tracks.
After more discussion, council members unanimously voted for the Lybrand Crossing to be rebuilt and reopened. Many in attendance were pleased with the decision, giving council members a round of applause.
The timetable for the crossing to be rebuilt and reopened was tentatively set at one year. The first step will be for the city and Union Pacific to come together on an agreement about maintenance and liability on future issues.
The crossing will also need to be constructed at a Union Pacific facility before being put on a schedule to be installed.
Council Moves To Reopen Lybrand Crossing
By David Kapitan