Frustrated motorists tired of waiting on trains to pass at the US 90 railroad crossing west of Dayton will be glad to know that the Texas Department of Transportation is now working on design plans for a railroad overpass.
“We recognize the railroad crossing is a concern for the citizens of Dayton, and we’re looking forward to proposing a solution. We anticipate holding a public meeting by next summer. We currently have a consultant on board to produce plans, and our goal is to have a railroad overpass project under construction within the next three years,” said Sarah Dupre, a TxDOT spokesperson for the Beaumont District.
TxDOT’s hiring of a consultant puts the project closer to reality, though traffic relief is still a few years into the future. Once the consultant comes up with a design, the project must still go through bid letting before a contractor is selected. After that, actual construction of the project can begin.
The project is an estimated $40 million investment into the Dayton area by TxDOT, according to Liberty County Judge Jay Knight.
Knight envisions the overpass will start on the east side near the north entrance to the Stripes store, just west of SH 146, and exit on the west side near the Best Western motel.
The overpass project comes at a time when the Dayton area already is seeing an increase in traffic due to growth.
“It’s been a growing problem for years and it’s further compounded by the additional traffic,” said Pct. 4 Commissioner Leon Wilson. “The additional traffic causes major headaches for motorists especially during the morning and evening rush hours, and when you add a train slow down or stall on the tracks, it becomes a real nightmare.”
Wilson says stalled trains could pose a life-threatening situation for Dayton residents in a time of crisis.
“It’s become a public safety problem for the folks in this area,” he said. “It has the potential to delay ambulances, law enforcement and fire trucks responding to emergencies.”
While elated that the project is moving forward, Knight is disappointed that the Union Pacific rails, referred to as the Candy Cane, are not being moved further to the west.
“It’s not the full project we envisioned. We wanted the rails to go further out but the rail line will remain at its current location,” he said. “I think this is the project that TxDOT always wanted but for us it’s a Band-Aid fix in terms of economic development.”
Wilson agrees, adding that Union Pacific was willing to relocate the rail lines but not at the company’s expense.
“The problem is Union Pacific wanted us to pay for it, and the City of Dayton and Liberty County could not afford a project of that magnitude,” the commissioner said.
As for the Waco Street crossing, which intersects with US 90 at the railroad crossing, Wilson said Union Pacific has indicated that once the overpass is built, they will “look hard” at leaving that crossing open for traffic.
Wilson asks that Dayton-area residents continue to show patience as this project moves forward.
“Jay Knight and I, and the Dayton city council and mayor have worked hard for years in getting this project to transpire. We are now starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel when before you couldn’t see the tunnel because it was blocked by the train,” he said.