Multiple times a day, at the intersection of Lockwood and Clinton, trains rumble through the Union Pacific rail line. If all goes well, a crossing may take 15 to 20 minutes. But more often than not, trains will sit idle, blocking the major intersection at the industrial hub of the East End for hours.
Workers at the Cadeco coffee company next to the tracks have developed elaborate workarounds, including checking live security camera footage on their phones while out running deliveries.
“We have just figured out ways, where we’re trying to be proactive. We send maps out with detours that the drivers can take, so that way we can try to avoid it,” said Amber Sheppard with the company. “We have a lot of issues where we have employees that get stuck by the train, or they have to reroute, they’re late, and are impacted that way.”
The story is similar just down the street at Texas Iron and Metal, a company started by Ariel Reichenthal’s great-grandfather. They have been located in the East End since the 1950s, but the train problems have gotten worse in recent years.
“It’s losing us customers,” she said, admitting the family-owned business has discussed relocating out of the neighborhood. “As much as we want to stay here, we care about our customers and their abilities to access what they need. We supply materials to the city of Houston in emergencies and if they can’t get to us, that’s affecting the city as well.”
The problem is so dire that on Thursday evening, the East End Chamber organized a community meeting bringing together representatives from Union Pacific, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, and lots of upset residents as well as business owners.
“A lot of business owners, they love being on the East End but they want to move because they’re having trouble getting their cargo from point A to point B,” said Chamber President Frances Castañeda Dyess. “So we want to be good community partners with Union Pacific and other railroads and just find a way to work together to eliminate a lot of the stoppage time, and business owners can find a way to get their items to the freeway and to their customers.”
Ahead of the meeting, Union Pacific released a statement saying, “We are committed to being good neighbors and working with the community to address these concerns. We also want residents to know that we are making investments in the infrastructure and operational improvements to help ease congestion.”
During the meeting, at least five representatives were on hand, listening to complaints.
Local businesses say they see only two options: Either build an overpass or be willing to decouple the trains when they sit idle for hours. There’s no guarantee either thing can happen soon. But, the East End Chamber says it will keep working to find a solution.