A retired railroad president has been hired as a consultant to help Columbus establish quiet zones for trains traveling through the city.

Quiet zones are one of the interim solutions city officials have mentioned as Columbus prepares to have about twice as many trains traveling through the city beginning next year.

In April 2014, the U.S. Department of Transportation Surface Transportation Board approved CSX’s request for joint use of the Louisville & Indiana Railroad rail corridor between Louisville, Kentucky and Indianapolis.

The city is preparing for longer, faster and heavier CSX trains to begin hauling freight northbound on the L&I tracks beginning in the third or fourth quarter of 2018, Mayor Jim Lienhoop said.

A study commissioned by the city indicated it will have as many as 22 trains a day traveling through the State Road 46 intersection compared to eight now, and the trains’ length will be longer, from 5,100 feet now to 7,500 feet in the future.

Columbus Redevelopment Commission members agreed to hire Secor Consulting LLC of Louisville, Kentucky, to research what infrastructure improvements the city must make so that trains traveling through the State Road 46/State Road 11, and Fifth, Eighth and 11th street crossings would not blow warning horns.

The four crossings being considered for the quiet zone are among Columbus’ 18 public and seven private active crossings, Secor Consulting said in its proposal to do the work.

John K. Secor retired in October 2012 as president of the Louisville & Indiana Railroad after a 44-year railroad career. The city agreed to pay Secor’s firm up to $11,500 for the study, which includes $1,000 for incidental expenses.

The city has requested that an overpass be built over the State Road 46 crossing, submitted to the Indiana Department of Transportation, said Dave Hayward, the city’s executive director of public works/city engineer. A decision on whether the project will be accepted by the state could come in the next few weeks, he said.

If the city’s project is selected, work would not begin until 2021 or 2022, years after the increased train traffic begins, Lienhoop said in an earlier interview.

Trains are required by law to sound their horns repeatedly when approaching each intersection, Hayward and Heather Pope, city redevelopment director, said Monday night. The horns are audible throughout the downtown area and beyond.

Installing quiet zones would be music to the ears of residents who have complained about being awakened during the night from the sounding of horns from passing trains.

The only current gated crossing among the four being considered in the quiet zone is at State Road 46, but that would change if the city establishes the no-train-horn zone, Hayward said.

The city would have to place gates at all the crossings in the quiet zones and make some modifications to the crossings to prevent vehicles from passing through the intersection when a train is approaching, Hayward said.

Secor’s study will provide a list of what is needed at each of the quiet-zone intersections and the cost for those improvements, Hayward said. The study could take a year or more to complete, Hayward said, and Secor has promised to return the city’s money if officials are not satisfied with his work.

During public comment, city resident Russ Poling said he agreed with the city’s plan for the quiet zones.

“I live on the east side of Columbus and I can hear those train horns,” he said. “It’s a good use of money.”

What's next

Columbus officials are awaiting word from the Indiana Department of Transportation whether their request for an overpass over the State Road 46/State Road 11 railroad crossing and a pretzel interchange will be approved. That notification is expected in the next few weeks.

The proposal also calls for realigning the railroad out of the downtown Columbus area and moving it further west to travel around the downtown north to Indianapolis Road.

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.