The construction on the new apartments at the back of campus has been noticed by everyone who has driven past it or who has stopped to let a large truck carrying supplies pass by.
But road construction will most likely be underway within the year to close off College Street at the railroad crossing.
“They have come to us and basically proposed the closing of the College Street crossing at the railroad track. It’s primarily a safety issue,” Listi said.
Listi said, “The railroad’s long-term goal and interest is to close as many of these at grade crossings as possible. You hear about accidents all the time where a train will hit somebody and cause some injuries or maybe even death.”
The problem with closing the crossing is the access it provides to the campus from the nearby neighborhood for better traffic flow.
“Is the cost benefit of increased safety something that warrants the closure of that connection?” Listi asked.
The city wants to hear the responses of the people living in the neighborhood adjacent to the tracks that will be affected by the crossing closure. Listi has scheduled a community meeting for March 3 and has sent out notices to more than 100 people in that area inviting them to come.
He said, “I would expect some reaction, but it’s hard to say whether that will be positive, negative, or neutral. We’re just going to have to evaluate it and see what the sentiment is in the community about it.”
Once Listi and the Belton City Council hear the residents’ opinions on it, the city council will decide whether or not to close the crossing, and, if they choose to do so, will begin the official procedure to make it happen.
Listi said, “If the decision is made to close it, the council has to pass a resolution and give that info to TXDOT and the railroad to accomplish the closing and to make the physical improvement necessary to make to the crossing.”
Listi has also been in conversation with UMHB about closing the crossing. Edd Martin, senior vice president for planning and support services, has been Listi’s main contact at the university.
“There are pros and cons to the possible closing of the College Street railroad crossing,” Martin said. “Positive impacts will be noise reduction from the reduced train whistle and improved safety. The negative impacts will be access to or from the north side of the tracks, and this will put more traffic on Main Street.”
The university maintains a good relationship with the city of Belton and the residents living near the campus, which makes projects like this one easier to prepare for.
Martin said, “UMHB has worked with the city on numerous partnerships and will continue to do so. I understand that there will be a public hearing on this subject in the near future, and that may be a determining factor in whether or not this actually happens.”
Graduate student Doak Fleming lives in a house across the tracks and often crosses the railroad.
“I use the street multiple times a day. It is an easy entrance and exit to the school,” he said.
“I think it should remain open. If it is closed then that will create more traffic over the bridge. I personally do not see how it is a safety issue considering that when a train comes by, the arms are lowered.”