Resident-led initiative aims to upgrade Railroad Ave.

In a Rut –
Jesse Robles is shown inside his truck transporting his neighbor’s trash cans to the dumpster placed at Railroad Avenue’s entrance.

It’s been 16 years since Jesse Robles, 24, and his family moved into the compact but active neighborhood located on Railroad Avenue, an access road located between Mayfield Rd. and N. Oscar Williams Rd. that runs parallel to the railroad. Now, about six weeks after coming home from college and after having grown impatient with the road’s deterioration and poor conditions, Robles has taken it upon himself to rally his neighbors to bring the matter to the City’s attention.
Railroad Avenue, an access road running parallel to the railway between Mayfield Rd. and N. Oscar Williams Rd, has gradually deteriorated over time, leaving it with hundreds of potholes and dips of various sizes, lengths, and depths. Apart from that, the road’s outer edges are filled with hedges and trash that has yet to be picked up.
Now, Robles after recently graduating from Texas A&M – Kingsville where he lived during the duration of his studies, and after returning back home, realized just how terrible the road’s conditions have become and decided to do something about it.
Since coming home, Robles has offered his neighbors help and his truck to transport their trash cans from the end of the road where the majority of the residents live to the dumpster placed toward the entrance at no charge. The trash truck, said Robles, won’t even drive through the road. He also said there have been days when he and other residents don’t receive their mail due to the mail-person not being able to go through the road either.
When Robles and his family contacted the City in the past, the City said they only own half of the road while Union Pacific owns the other half. Robles said he was told the City owns the half closer to the fences and properties while Union Pacific owns the half closer to the ditch and railroad.
“It doesn’t matter, with one side being fixed would help tremendously as just a way we can go up and down the road without having to worry about our vehicles touching the floor,” said Robles.
He said there have been times where he’s seen people take a bag of trash at a time down to the dumpster rather than take the entire trash can in their vehicles.
Robles also recalled that in the past when grass-fires would ignite, fire department trucks would have to be parked halfway down the road (usually at the smooth part), and then manually take equipment down the road to fight the fire just because of how bad the road becomes toward the end.
“It makes us not feel safe at all knowing we could be in danger one day, needing their assistance and we can’t even get that from them,” Robles said.
In that same past discussion, the City said they were going to push property lines further inward as a way of making room for a new road, said Robles. Robles further commented that the City placed flags designating where the new part of the road would be, but a year later, no action has been taken.
Robles further recalled that when his grandma passed away a couple of years ago, the hearse had to come retrieve the body from his household. He said that witnessing the hearse drive through the pothole ridden road with his deceased grandmother in the back bouncing back and forth from side to side one last time, and during a time of hardship of all things, was definitely not easy.
He also said that his mother’s growing back pains are only perpetuated by the instability and ruggedness of the road as it causes her vehicle to bounce all over the place as well, which, like the rest of the residents, she has to drive down every day.
Robles said that conditions are much worse when it rains, saying that the water tends to level the road out, making it even more difficult to maneuver. There are instances, he said, where sometimes vehicles drive through the outer edges of the road as they appear to be the smoothest parts. However, Robles said that this is not only risky, but has ended up assisting people in the past by pulling their cars out of the ditch.
Robles also recalled that when he was younger, the road would be shaved every year or every other year as a way to make the road more accessible. He said the service has not been conducted in over 8 years.
“It was great. We loved it. They would do it within a day; we’d go to work or school, we’d come back and be like, ‘Whoa, man! We got it scraped!’ Heck yeah, it was best thing” he said.
Having finally grown frustrated with the road’s conditions, and in an attempt to raise awareness on the issue, Robles created a Facebook page titled “Railroad Avenue.”
“I didn’t have a Facebook, but I figured it’s a great way to get my word out to the city and to get people’s thoughts and opinions involved,” said Robles.
The page is filled with pictures, posts and general updates on Robles’s actions in regard to the road.
Since then he has not only helped his neighbors by collecting their trash, but also by trimming the overgrown tree branches that clouded the road at one point. He also said he is hoping people he’s spoken to are kind enough to donate bricks or sand bags to fill some of the potholes and dips.
Robles also said that other media has reported on the road’s condition in recent years as well, with Channel 4 reporting in August that a year later from the original report, nothing had been done to assist the families on Railroad Avenue. Channel 23 KVEO had also done two reports on the matter.
Robles also said that the grass that has overgrown on the railroad’s side, immediately next to the ditch, has not been cut in years either.
Ruben Morales, another and elder resident of Railroad Ave, said that there have been times where he’s had to (with a damaged arm from a motorcycle accident) pull his trash can from his house to the dumpster at the front of the road because the trash crew has deemed the pothole-ridden road too dangerous to drive through.
Another neighbor who wished to remain anonymous said it took some convincing for her to decide on moving into her house on Railroad Avenue. She said that while she loved the home and the space it came with, the road it was located on was close to being a deal-breaker. Still, with her husband’s convincing, she said yes and remains hopeful that conditions will improve.
“Yeah, it’s bad but I’m staying hopeful that the road will be fixed,” she said.
Robles has reached out to different entities looking to answer the question of whose responsibility the road falls under.
The News reached out to the Railroad Commission of Texas to inquire, but they responded, “The RRC does not own streets or have jurisdictional authority over the maintenance of streets or roads.”
The County Tax Assessor’s Office was also reached out to for insight on the matter, but Robles was told that the County has no jurisdiction over City roads.
Robles also contacted the City of San Benito officials, particularly Mayor Ben Gomez, who told him that the road is a private road. Director of Planning & Development Bernard Rodriguez also told Robles the road belongs to a private entity, but would look further into the matter.
In a press release sent to the News, the City stated the access “is owned by Union Pacific” and that this matter has existed for decades.
It continued, “The City understands the frustration, but the City does not own the road, and therefore cannot use public funds to maintain it, under current legal statutes.”
On the topic of decades, Robles said one of his former neighbors even commended him for taking on the struggle as she had many years ago. The problem, Robles said, appears to have become a generational one and is one that he now feels proud to take on.
“In efforts to find a potential solution for us to legally assist in the area, the City has spoken to a representative of the affected parties, as well as to the railroad company. We have conducted research and have learned the property does include a public right-of-way which further complicates the problem” concluded the press release.
In the meantime, Robles said he will continue his own independent research, will continue rallying his neighbors, and will continue collecting the trash cans and maintaining the road as much as he can.
“We live right in the middle of the city, we pay taxes and all. We aren’t doing enough and need to do more,” he said.

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