Meetings continue between railroad, area officials

Louisville & Indiana Railroad representatives have been meeting with mayors, county commissioners and other government officials in cities along its rail line tracks since the 2015 proposal was made to upgrade to high-speed rail.

Railroad president John Goldman said the most recent of periodic updates have included railroad representatives meeting with government officials representing cities north of Seymour about work to upgrade the railroad’s tracks north to Indianapolis.

Last year, at the request of consultant American Structurepoint, working with the city of Columbus, the railroad lined up a rail trip for Mayor Jim Lienhoop and other city officials to see the rail line from the railroad’s perspective, driving the train tracks through Columbus.

Goldman said railroad officials also handed out brochures and contact information on how to set up quiet zones for the railroad tracks at meetings with city officials representing Columbus, Seymour, Franklin and Greenwood.

Columbus has hired a retired Louisville & Indiana president, John Secor, to determine the infrastructure upgrades required to implement a quiet zone in the downtown, where train horns would not sound, between State Road 46 and 11th Street in Columbus.

Infrastructure could include gated crossings and street improvements which would block any ability to cross if a train was approaching, Lienhoop said.

“The municipality will have a significant investment in infrastructure, and it has to be in place before you apply,” Goldman said of the process of seeking a quiet-zone designation from the Federal Railroad Administration. If Columbus would receive the designation, the railroad would comply with the quiet-zone regulations at those intersections, he said.

The railroad is frequently asked about its train schedules, as commuters want to know when trains will be crossing certain intersections, Goldman said.

Providing a schedule is challenging, particularly in the midst of the upgrade to high-speed rail, he said. When the railroad goes out to replace sections of track with high-speed rail, the old rails have to be taken out first and a train can’t run there while that happens.

The railroad will shut down a portion of the tracks for about 10 hours at a time as the upgrades progress north to Indianapolis, Goldman said.

To work with that schedule, the railroad will send all the trains it can north of the upgrade location by a certain time before the rail line closes there, he said. During that 10 hours, trains will be creeping up on the closed session, so that when the track opens up they can proceed.

Trains passing through Columbus will vary as to time depending on where tracks are being upgraded and where the crews are in the process of removing and replacing track, he said.

However, once the Flatrock River Bridge replacement is completed in Columbus, the high-speed rail traffic will commence, Goldman said.

At least 30 days before the higher-speed trains begin traveling along the track, public notices will be placed in the media and signs will be installed at the crossings advising of the changeover and that higher-speed trains, at longer lengths, are traveling on the rail line.

While some community residents have been concerned about the high-speed rail, Goldman said he has also received positive comments from community residents where the new rails have been installed that the trains are quieter, and move through intersections faster.

At a booth set up at a community festival in the southern area of the line, south of Seymour, several residents told Goldman they “love what you did,” with the rail track, he said.

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