Abilene rail yard relocation plans derailed, for now

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB) – Abilene’s SoDA District has been changing quite a bit in recent years, and it could be set to change even more if developers can come to an agreement with the City of Abilene.

If you pass over the railroad tracks on Treadaway, you’re already familiar with Lone Star Railroad and Southern Switching Company, which lies just inside SoDA. With the help of developer John Hill, they want to pull up ties and move elsewhere.

“It had the benefit of them being able to consolidate a rail area right there along the track”, said Hill of the potential new location between China and Rose streets.

If the rail yard does move, that opens up quite a bit of space in the burgeoning SoDA District.

“You have a limited number of users in that neighborhood”, explained Hill. “As I talk to people who dream about what the SoDA District can be, they see it as mixed use development. They see it for housing. They see it for apartments.”

More than that, the move would make for more infill development just off Treadaway. The new rail yard would be a large portion of that development, but there could be something more.

Hill said, “It could bring the opportunity for businesses to agglomerate around it, that could benefit from this rail.”

To accomplish this, the railroad wants to shut down a piece of South Eighth Street, just between China and Rose, to avoid having to move car traffic safely across their yard.

The plans are at a standstill now, though. The Abilene Fire Department doesn’t find anything wrong with giving up an unused alley that runs through the center of the property, but they do say giving up the street will hinder their ability to reach the handful of properties that lie on the east side of the tracks.

The City itself has issues with the existing utilities that lie on the property, asking for a plan to move them. Hill says there’s precedent for railroad tracks being placed over utilities, and adds the area is rundown, forgotten, and this change could represent an improvement.

Hill asked, “Can we just go ahead and close this chapter, and at the same time turn it into something that is viable, and taxable, and something we can use to bring some dollars to town?”

The plans were tabled by P&Z, for a 60 day period. In that time, Hill plans on getting written agreements from the utilities to show the rails won’t cause an issue.

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