Letter: Update on city rail, train improvements

From: Zack Ellison


Here is some information on local train delays, where we are, and where we will be in five years.

Louisville & Indiana Railroad is the owner of the railroad right-of-way through Columbus. It can use this rail system as much as it likes, without city approval, and is currently running two to four trains per day. The number of trains will not increase until after the Flat Rock Bridge and welded-track improvements are completed, so nothing has changed.

The current speed limit for trains crossing the Flat Rock Bridge is 5 mph due to structural limitations. The 5 mph speed limit means a current train takes about 12 minutes to clear the Jonathan Moore rail crossing. Twelve minutes is a long time and does not make us very happy. In five years, when bridge and track improvements are completed, the trains will have a 25 mph speed limit and will clear the Jonathan Moore rail crossing in slightly over three minutes, about the wait time for two stop lights, not nearly as bad as 12 minutes.

Columbus economic growth will increase with the addition of improved rail capability. Currently, diesel engines produced at a Walesboro plant are trucked to Chicago, where they are loaded onto trains for delivery to the truck assembly plant. Many industries considering Columbus ask about our rail service capability, because they need good rail capability. Good trains make better use of their resources, reduce shipping costs and reduce traffic on Interstate 65.

One idea getting lots of attention is to build a $40 million overpass, but Columbus does not have $40 million to spend, neither does the Indiana Department of Transportation. An overpass would take about four years to build. The Jonathan Moore rail crossing overpass would only address one of several local crossings. There are, and will be, more cost effective ideas to reduce the local impact of increased rail traffic.

I hope this helps your understanding of where we are (currently nothing has changed with train traffic at two to four trains per day), and where we are going in five years (25 mph speeds, more trains but much less time delay per train).

Editor’s note: Due to technical difficulties, only a portion of Zack Ellison’s full letter appeared in the March 26 edition of The Republic.