Houston East End residents concerned over rail blockings speak to federal administrators

Concerned citizens on the East End showed up to a town hall meeting over blocked railroad crossings - a common problem in their area. 

The issue has gotten worse, as some trains are stuck for anywhere between 20 minutes to a full hour, several times during the week. 

CAUGHT ON VIDEO: Jersey Village man claims police officers were excessive in traffic stop, demands investigation

"We hear horns between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.," says one resident. "Experts have said it's a negative impact on our health." 

Hosted by U.S. House Representative Sylvia Garcia, residents heard from Federal Rail Administrator Amit Bose, who stated the area was part of a pilot program dedicated to fixing issues like these across the country. 

"In the last six months, we've collected data at over 30 public crossings, made direct phone calls to the railroads, conducted more than 50 site visits, attended neighborhood meetings, and spent more than 100 hours with dispatchers," says Bose. 

His team has also visited a site in Charleston, South Carolina - where they have seen success after making changes to the rail systems there. 

"I can assure you, like we’ve done for the past six months with the pilot program, we’re going to continue to work on this," said Bose. 

He was also joined in the town hall by representatives from Union Pacific. 

Citizens also raised concerns over recent derailments, like the one in East Palestine, Ohio. 

"Many communities, the communities that our super neighborhood represents, are right next to the largest petrochemical complex in the nation," says one community organizer. 

"Many of these trains are toxic trains. We are not privy or aware of what is on those trains. When a chemical disaster occurs, which is not if, but when, we don't have the transparency needed to know what to do," he added. 

"What I can do is make sure to show up to places, like the East End, make sure that FRA commits resources to look into the situation, roll up our sleeves, and try to come up with solutions," replies Bose. 

'THIS ISN'T HARRIS COUNTY:" Galveston Judge takes swipe at Harris Co. Judges during bond hearing for suspect in deadly golf cart crash

Local business owner Martha Gill, whose Segundo Coffee Lab is located between two major rail crossings, loses nearly 40% of her daily sales when trains block the roads on either side for an extended period of time. 

"Last time you (FRA) came, you said you would work on things, and I feel like they never know. We can't get a direct answer," says Gill. "I get it, we have to get supplies to businesses. It's growing...but what are we going to do? We haven't gotten a straightforward answer in several years. 

Rep. Garcia also mentioned the upcoming discussion in the U.S. House on rail blockings. She says next week, there will be a re-introduction of the Don't Block Our Communities Act - if passed, the measure would create a ten-minute time limit for when trains are blocking crossroads. Violators of that limit would face hefty fines.