Update for May 16, 2013
Truck crossings banned at two rail intersections
By William Hoover
Hondo City Council on Monday, Jan. 28, approved a first reading of an ordinance prohibiting commercial vehicle traffic from crossing the hazardously steep grade railroad crossings parallelling Highway 90 at Avenues P and U in the City of Hondo.
Council plans to add a ban on trucks towing long trailers, such as mobile homes and recreational vehicles, to the ordinance at the next scheduled council meeting. Violators of the new city traffic law will be subject to a fine not to exceed $500 per offense.
Mayor Jim Danner introduced the agenda item and asked City Manager Jeff Litchfield to explain the proposed ordinance to council.
“At the last council meeting, we discussed railroad safety,” said Litchfield. “Our recommendation was that we should consider a prohibition of the types of vehicles that have caused safety hazards there by becoming stuck because of their length, especially because of how close the crossings are to Hwy. 90.
“The entrances to those two crossings at Ave. P and Ave. U off of Highway 90 are in primarily residential areas, so we didn’t see any need for commercial traffic to be going down either (street). We think if there is any commercial activity in that area, it can be accessed from 14th Street to the north.”
“I have some concerns about the definition of commercial vehicles because there are some recreational vehicles and other vehicles that are the same length as you might see on an 18-wheeler,” noted Danner. “These big trucks hauling motor homes, camper trailers and that kind of thing could also have problems at those crossings.”
“In visiting with (City Attorney William “Mick” McKamie) today, he indicated that we need to go ahead and approve this ordinance upon the first reading tonight,” added Danner. “We can change it at the next meeting to include those type of vehicles that I am concerned about.”
“I think you’re right because the length of those vehicles and the gross weight affects the safety of the crossing,” said McKamie. “If you wish to consider it at the next meeting, we have prepared some definitions of RVs and towable RV consumer vehicles and pole trailers so they can be put in the ordinance.”
“My concern was not only about high-centering, like what has happened to some of these trailers, but the distance between the rail and Highway 90,” said Danner.
“How do we tell these guys they can’t cross there?” asked Place 1 Councilman John McAnelly inquiring about signage to warn truck drivers of the prohibited crossing sites.
“We don’t have that settled yet,” said Litchfield. “But from what I understand, we are looking at the gross vehicle weight rating that defines the type of vehicle—and length. We have to have those signs in place before we can enforce the ordinance.
“Police Chief (Johnny Martinez) was not able to be here tonight,” noted Litchfield. “He is taking care of signage and I am taking care of this presentation for him. ”
“Also, do we need to look at Avenue Y?” asked McAnelly.
“Avenue Y has some semblance of a need for commercial activity there,” said Litchfield. “It feeds into the eastern portion of our airport property. The grades at Avenues U, P and Y will be addressed. As Union Pacific makes repairs to their railroad crossings, it is a good opportunity for us to do that.
“We will only tear up a small portion of the roads,” he added. “We will be building on top of the roads to obtain a much smoother plane coming in. We currently have several dips and there is an old roadbed along there. I don’t think we have any drainage issues in those three locations, but we will be smoothing out the run-ups to those crossings.”
Place 3 Councilman Eric Torres offered the motion to approve the ordinance’s first reading. The motion passed unanimously after receiving a second from McAnelly.
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