The City of Duncan has had plans for a railroad crossings closure and improvement project for several years according to City Manager Jim Frieda.
But the original plans made years ago changed on July 3, 2010, when 17-year-old Deion Houston of Duncanville, Texas, was killed at the Maple Street crossing, bringing much more attention to the project.
Houston was killed when his vehicle was struck by a train while crossing the Maple Street railroad crossing. Frieda said that particular crossing is within the standards of ODOT and Union Pacific.
“It’s got everything it needs,” Frieda said. “The signs were all there, the warnings on the street and ahead of the tracks were there, but it just could be safer.”
Frieda said a new corridor project with Union Pacific, ODOT and the City of Duncan has been considered for several months now, and should be ready to present to the city council during the April 12 meeting.
“We still have some things to do, but it’s looking good,” Frieda said.
The project now drawn up would close the Maple Street crossing permanently, and then improve three more crossings at west Spruce, Bois D’arc and west Plato road. The improvements would include pedestal flashing lights and crossing gates with flashing lights attached. Frieda also said MLK Jr. Ave. will also get an upgrade with the pedestal lights and flahing, lighted crossing gates.
“That will be a stand-alone project for the city,” Frieda said.
The total cost of the project is estimated at around $970,000, but the federal government, through grants, will account for 90 percent of the cost. The railroad company will front the remaining 10 percent at the Maple Street closing, while the city take the remaining 10 percent associated with the improvements. However, for the MLK Jr. Ave. crossing, Duncan will provide 25 percent of the cost of improvement because it has been designated as a stand-alone project.
Frieda said when the project is finished, all crossings from Bois D’arc through the City of Duncan will be as safe as they possibly can be with flashing lights and crossing gates.
City officials have been meeting with Union Pacific and ODOT for months to prepare the corridor project. Frieda said the group has met at least four times, and hopes that the plan currently drawn up holds. Public officials attending the most recent meeting were Public Works Director Scott Vaughn, Street Superintendent Scotty Casteel, Police Chief Danny Ford, Assistant Police Chief Bo Walker and Frieda.
The project proposal should be ready to present to the Duncan City Council during the April 12 council meeting. Frieda also said he will be contacting the family of Deion Houston to attend the meeting.
“They have wanted to be involved with this since we started working on it,” Frieda said. “I told them as we got stuff ready, we would contact them, so they should be at the meeting when we get this approved.”
Frieda said he hopes this project will bring an added amount security to the railroad crossings in Duncan, and hopes it reduces the already low number of accidents associated with them.
“We want to make Duncan safer, and this will be a great project to help with that,” Frieda said.