In meetings with the Louisville & Indiana and CSX railroads, information Columbus officials have received about rail upgrade schedules may help commuters navigate around train delays.
CSX is leasing the tracks between Louisville and Indianapolis, which travel through Columbus and Seymour, and is making $100 million in improvements to create a continuous-welded, high-speed rail line for northbound freight.
New high-speed rails are being installed on the entire corridor. Although the construction schedule remains flexible, city officials say they’ve learned why certain trains are traveling through Columbus at certain times.
In 2016, the railroad decided to change its construction schedule based on capital budget allocations, which affects the pace of the construction and when the work is finished, Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop said.
Work to replace the Flatrock River Bridge in Columbus to accommodate heavier and double-stacked train cars had initially been planned for 2017, but has since been delayed until 2018, he said. Estimated completion date for the bridge is the third or fourth quarter of 2018.
In 2016, the railroad completed replacing the high-speed rail line from Seymour south to Louisville, the mayor said. To do that, the entire line was closed to through train traffic from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
That meant, typically, Columbus would see a train traveling through around 7:30 or 8 a.m. That’s because the train had to be past Seymour before 7 a.m. heading northbound, Lienhoop said. As a result, commuters heading into Columbus during the morning drive time were delayed because of the rail line construction.
And similarly in 2016, Columbus commuters might have seen a train at 6:30 or 7 p.m., on the drive home.
The trains in 2016 were shorter in length than what is planned for the future, but the rail line closings will continue until the entire rail line is replaced from Louisville to Indianapolis, Lienhoop said.
The schedule will now reverse in 2017 since the Louisville-to-Seymour section will be open, while the Seymour-to-Indianapolis track will go under the closed status from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We will still see trains in Columbus, but they will be before 7 a.m. and after 5 p.m. this year,” Lienhoop said, adding a caveat that the railroad operates on a fluid schedule and could change its plans at any time.
Once the northern section of track is finished to Indianapolis, the railroad work will return to Columbus for the bridge work.
And by the third quarter or fourth quarter of 2018, the increased train traffic will begin, the mayor said.