AUSTIN (KXAN) - Train track trespassers were one of the first things Jessica Tunon noticed when she moved to Downtown Austin. Her apartment balcony overlooks the Union Pacific Railroad line.
"I lived in the D.C. area and was on a train where someone decided to commit suicide on the train, so safety has become a huge issue for me," she explained. "You could get injured. You could get killed."
For months, Tunon has talked with every agency involved, pressing for an update. Now, the City of Austin has a projected timeframe for several safety projects, but you should not expect them anytime soon.
A temporary fence along the railroad to keep people off the tracks will start going up in the coming weeks. The Federal Railroad Administration – which visited the site this month for an update – said the fencing will be on the south side of the tracks east of Lamar Boulevard. The fencing will be on both sides of the crossing to just past the Baylor Street right of way north of the Amtrak parking lot.
A permanent fence will eventually happen along with a pedestrian crossing with lights and gates near Lamar Boulevard, which should be complete in early 2014. The FRA says designs for the crossing should be submitted to UPRR in Spring 2013 for review.
A UPRR track realignment to alter the curve on a railroad bridge and to make room for a pedestrian underpass at Bowie Street. This is in the design phase and is currently scheduled for completion in May 2015, according to the FRA.
"You have to go through the various steps and various negotiations with that private landholder to do business on that property," said Gary Schatz of the Austin Transportation Department.
The city is urging people to be patient right now, as agreements between its officials and the railroad can be drawn out. UPRR – which confirms it is working with the city on these projects - owns the land surrounding the track, while the city is proposing the improvements.
"That's just kind of the nature of the business as it is, but we're working diligently to bring these things to fruition," Schatz added.
While you wait, that danger is not going away. When it comes to trespasser causalities, between 2009 and 2012, the FRA says there have been:
- U.S. - 2,800
- Texas – Texas
- TravisCounty – 4
Union Pacific trespasser causalities during that time frame include:
- U.S.– 512
- Texas– 155
- TravisCounty– 3
The city did recently upgrade the sidewalks under a train overpass on Lamar Boulevard, a sign of progress. But it is not enough to satisfy Tunon.
"No one really has a clear-cut agenda of what really is at stake," she said.
The city and UPRR are also working to come to an agreement about creating a quiet zone near Paul and Pressler Streets in downtown. It would mean trains would not blow their horns there, but this project is also delayed with no set timeframe for its completion.
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