PULASKI COUNTY, Ark.— Neighbors who live off Hensley Road in Pulaski County said a train forced them to sleep in their cars after blocking the only ways in and out of their community for nearly seven hours.
We met Taquia Parker near State Highway 365 and Hensley Road where she said she slept in her car Wednesday night.
Parker said, “This has to stop. It has to stop.”
She shared with us multiple videos she recorded on her cell phone Wednesday evening. She said she was driving home from work when the ordeal started around 5:30 p.m. She said she was not able to get home until after midnight.
Parker said, “It was very degrading to me.”
She said cars parked on the side of the rural road as they waited to get home.
She described sleeping her car after a Union Pacific train like this one we saw Thursday blocked both roads in and out of her Hensley neighborhood for nearly 7 hours.
“I’ve been here since 5:30 pm and it’s 10 o’clock now,” she said in one of the videos.
Parker said, ‘Something has to stop.”
We found neighbors on Thursday afternoon waiting. It was the same spot where Parker was Wednesday.
Lilyan Tanner told us, “We’re pissed off. It’s ridiculous.”
We talked with Tanner while a stopped train separated us.
The neighbors said both ways into their community at Hensley and Oak Roads have been blocked for long periods of times more than just Wednesday night.
“When we’re sitting here and, you know, you got to be at work and you call your place of employment and you tell them you’re blocked in by a train? They don’t believe you,” Tanner said.
Desert Storm veteran Ronald Stigall told us on Thursday that they’ve been waiting more than an hour to get home. He said a train delayed him getting to his doctor’s appointment at the VA, and now it delayed him getting home.
Ronald Stigall said, “I’m frightened that the train is going to stop and block both ends of the track and I’m not going to have a way to get out of here to go seek medical care when needed.”
Parker said the train finally started moving around midnight.
“This has to stop. It has to stop,” Parker said.
Neighbors said Wednesday wasn’t the first time a train’s stopped for hours, but they sure hope it’s the last.
Union Pacific Spokesperson Kristin South sent this statement Thursday afternoon. It reads, “Let me start by offering our sincere apologies to the community. Union Pacific is aware of the issue and working to find a solution.
In October 2018, we launched a new operating plan called Unified Plan 2020. At its most basic level, the plan is about moving cars to provide our customers safe, efficient and reliable service. In many cases, we are serving customers more frequently, picking up cars as they are available, rather than waiting for an entire train to be ready for departure. The Hensley community is seeing the impact of Unified Plan 2020 as we fine tune our service.
It is not our intention to block crossings for extended periods of time. We encourage drivers to report such occurrences to our 24/7 Response Center at 888-877-7267.”