East End businesses say stalled trains are costing them money and customers

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – Trains rumble through the Union Pacific rail line several times a day at the intersection of Lockwood and Clinton. If all goes well, a crossing can take 15 to 20 minutes. But most of the time, the trains stand still, blocking the major junction in the East End’s industrial heartland for hours.

Workers at the Cadeco coffee company next to the tracks have devised sophisticated workarounds, including checking live footage from security cameras on their phones while making deliveries.

“We just found ways where we’re trying to be proactive. We’re sending out maps with detours drivers can take so we can try to avoid them,” said the company’s Amber Sheppard. “We have a lot of issues where we have staff getting stuck on trains, having to change trains, being late and being impacted that way.”

The story is just down the road at Texas Iron and Metal, a company founded by Ariel Reichenthal’s great-grandfather. They’ve been in the East End since the 1950s, but train problems have worsened in recent years.

“It’s losing us customers,” she said, admitting that the family business has considered moving out of the neighborhood. “As much as we want to stay here, we care about our customers and their ability to access what they need. We deliver materials to the City of Houston in emergencies, and if they can’t reach us, that impacts the city as well.”

The problem is so bad that the East End Chamber organized a community meeting Thursday night that brought together Union Pacific officials, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and many disgruntled residents and business owners.

“Many business owners love being in the East End, but they want to relocate because they are having trouble getting their cargo from point A to point B,” the chamber president said Frances Castañeda Dye. “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 downtime 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 that said, “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 investing in infrastructure and operational improvements to ease the congestion situation.”

At least five representatives were present during the meeting and listened to complaints.

Local companies say they see only two options: either build an overpass, or be ready to uncouple the trains when they stand idle for hours. There is no guarantee that either of these things can happen anytime soon. However, the East End Chamber says it will continue to work to find a solution.

Copyright © 2022 KTRK-TV. All rights reserved. East End businesses say stalled trains are costing them money and customers

Dais Johnston

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