Fixing train problem correctly worth cost

COLUMBUS faces increased traffic congestion at the western entrance to downtown in coming years, with increased railroad traffic from additional and longer freight trains. There’s no doubt that increased train volume will occur. The only part that’s uncertain is the extent that increased train traffic will impact local residents.

Recognizing the problem, the city is asking the Indiana Department of Transportation for financial support to help fix the problem by choosing to support two of the five options presented by a consultant. The city’s preferred solutions are:

A realignment of the railroad to the west and an overpass over State Road 46

Adding a new interchange at the intersection of State Roads 46 and 11 intersection, with ramps in a pretzel-shaped pattern around the intersection and an overpass over the crossing.

Any solution will be slow and expensive. Either project, if approved, would not begin for at least another four or five years, city officials said. Estimated costs of the two proposed solutions range from $27 million to $94 million, although actual costs are as of yet unknown. The city is requesting that INDOT pay $20 million, with the city responsible for securing funding for the remainder.

While it remains to be seen what level of financial assistance Columbus eventually gets, it would be foolish for city officials to ask for too little when a cheaper request might not fix the anticipated problems. Putting a bandage on such a large problem may just delay an inevitable costlier investment.

Columbus always can reassess its options for the amount city taxpayers would bear when eventual state funding levels become known. But for now, the two solutions proposed by the city seem to be on the right track for derailing a problem that is likely to cause plenty of headaches in the coming years.

We hope state officials see the wisdom in this, too.

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