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Whitehouse takes down controversial stop sign

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WHITEHOUSE (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - Whitehouse residents can ease over a local railroad crossing without the fear of a ticket now that a controversial stop sign is down.

The sign, which sat at Acker Tap Road near Texas Highway 110 and a railroad crossing, became a source of conflict among residents because some believed it was not necessary — trains no longer routinely run on nearby tracks, and some have said the sign contributes to traffic congestion.

As of March 2011, 207 tickets had been written in the previous six years for running that stop sign, according to city data. The tickets typically cost $173. No tickets have been written there since Police Chief Craig Shelton took the helm last year.

Assistant City Manager Kevin Huckabee said via email that he contacted Union Pacific Railroad several times about city railroad crossings because people don't need to stop on Acker Tap Road if the tracks are out of service, and there is backed up traffic on Acker Tap and on Farm-to-Market Road 346 in front of the Whitehouse Municipal Fire Station because of buses stopping at the railroad crossing.
That has been an issue for fire officials and Emergency Medical Services when they tried to respond during particular times of the day, he wrote.

He said Union Pacific told the city that the railroad tracks aren't in service but would not remove the tracks.

City leaders have said that they were reluctant to take the stop sign down at Acker Tap because that could make it unsafe for residents, but the city could do something if there was not an active railroad crossing there anymore.

The solution was to replace the stop signs with "exempt" signs indicating that the railroad tracks are no longer in service, Huckabee said via email.

He said he contacted the Texas Department of Transportation about the crossing on Farm-to-Market Road 346, since it is maintained by the state, and was told that TxDOT would order "exempt" signs for that crossing as long as the tracks were inactive. He wrote that the signs allow buses and HAZMAT vehicles to cross the railroad tracks without having to stop and should help with traffic backup.

The city also ordered "exempt" signage for the Acker Tap crossing, which was put up.

"This should also help with unnecessary hesitation of traffic on Acker Tap Road and allow for traffic to flow more smoothly, especially in the morning," Huckabee wrote.

He said via email that TxDOT indicated that the "exempt" signs would be placed at the Farm-to-Market Road 346 crossing "in the near future."

"If Union Pacific does repair the railroad tracks for future use, the signs will be changed accordingly," he wrote. "In the meantime, we encourage drivers to be aware of all traffic signs and to drive safely."
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