PULASKI COUNTY, Ark. – A neighborhood in Pulaski County trapped by train tracks is looking for another way out.
The dozens of people who live along Marche and Short Marche roads near Maumelle can only access their streets through two railroad crossings, which can easily become blocked if a train stalls.
Neighbors in the area say the rail blockage has been an issue for years now, with Marche road homeowner Oscar Ornelas calling it a “constant issue.”
“There’ve been several occasions where it’s blocked both crossings and we can’t get in or out,” Ornelas explained, recalling a recent event that left his wife and daughter stranded well past 1 am on the other side of the tracks.
He says trains stalling can be an annoyance, but his main concern is that it also blocks emergency responders from quickly accessing the neighborhood.
“It’s more of a safety issue than anything else,” Ornelas said.
The only backup route is a maintenance gate kept locked at the end of Short Marche Road, which was opened for a period during construction of the nearest I-40 exit, then closed.
Emergency teams are supposed to have a key, but Ornelas is concerned not everyone knows where it is. He explained he called 911 when his family was stuck to see if someone could open the gate, and a Pulaski County Sheriff’s Deputy returned his call.
“He told me that they don’t have access to that gate,” said Ornelas.
He’s pushing to have the gate opened permanently, a wish echoed by other neighbors as a way to escape if the rails are blocked.
But not everyone agrees. One neighbor who lives close to the gate said when opened, traffic on narrow Short Marche is a nightmare, with cars speeding down and driving dangerously. She also added that Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde had previously issued a petition, saying if everyone on Short Marche wanted the gate opened, it would stay that way. A few neighbors, however, didn’t sign.
Ornelas has been in contact with Hyde over email regarding who has access to the gate, and if it will be opened full-time in the future. Ornelas said Hyde responded that he would double-check with emergency services to guarantee they all have access and would only reconsider opening the gate if White Oaks Crossing expands to Highway 365 in the future.