The fate of Railroad Avenue, an unpaved and almost inaccessible road parallel to the railway in between Mayfield Road and Oscar Williams Road, is now uncertain after city officials have declared that public funds cannot be used on private property as a way to improve its conditions, as mandated by law. Any other intervention would be too costly.
Railroad Avenue made headlines late last year and this year after one of the road’s residents made efforts to bring its condition to the city’s attention. In an in-depth interview on the scene with said resident, Jesse Robles, the NEWS reported that the road was abundant with potholes, bumps, dips of various lengths and sizes, and untamed brush and scattered trash, which hindered city services such as trash collectors and postal workers from passing through. It was also previously reported that the road falls under the private property of Union Pacific Railroad.
In an email to the media last week, Union Pacific stated they had offered a proposal to the city, though they did not specify its details. The NEWS sat down with Public Relations Director Martha McClain, Assistant City Manager/Interim Police Chief Fred Bell, and City Manager Manuel De La Rosa (DLR), who explained the logistics and recent developments of the matter at hand.
“Union Pacific owns property, half of the dirt road designated on the maps as Railroad Avenue. The rest is owned by private landowners,” said De La Rosa. He continued by reading from their email, “‘Union Pacific provided a proposal to the city in May that would give the city access to upgrade and maintain the road. We are awaiting a response from city leaders.’”
City commissioners in early January voted to allow De La Rosa to reach out to Union Pacific to work out a new deal, which was after Robles, at a Jan. 15 city commission meeting, presented unto the city officials documents from the 1980s and ’90s outlining petitions and letters of agreements between past city commissions and the railway company allowing the city to maintain Railroad Avenue. DLR also told the NEWS then that the city cannot use public assets on private property. According to Parks & Recreation Director Art Garza, Union Pacific did not contact the City until May, offering a lease agreement although the terms and conditions on it were not clear then either.
“Cost proposals,” said De La Rosa. “Just like this email stated very specifically: Union Pacific owns lands and [so do] private landowners. What it doesn’t say there is that the City owns it. The City cannot utilize public, taxpayer funds, on private property.”
Taking all that into account, Jesse Robles, who has recently moved to San Antonio but is still in constant contact with Railroad Avenue residents, among them his parents, told the NEWS, “Railroad Avenue never asked for a new road, just help repairing it. A donation of crumbled gravel from a new paved road, or even any gravel left abandoned would’ve helped plenty. No residents of any city should have to drive up and down a road from home covered in serious pot holes, along truck loads of forgotten brush. This road has an overflowing dumpster at the end of it, which is also taking the strength out of the backs of the elderly residents. Shame on these city leaders.”
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