The fifth annual Mill Race Marathon is 20 days away. Among the many preparation items on organizers’ checklist is to make sure trains don’t cut through part of the course that morning — again.
Race organizers know about train disruption. One came through Mill Race Park in Columbus the morning of the second marathon in 2014, causing a huge disruption during the race because a train engineer thought he could get through before the race began.
That led to race organizers having to work with railroad officials to get them to commit to no train traffic from 5 to 11 a.m. on race day. It’s worked the past two years. But looking ahead, that guarantee will no longer exist.
Organizers have learned that the CSX and Louisville & Indiana railroads can’t commit to keeping trains from running through downtown Columbus during the annual late-September race after next year. That’s when as many as 22 trains per day will cut through the eastern portion of the park.
This is unfortunate news for race organizers, because the marathon and half-marathon courses go through the park and over its iconic wooden bridge, which adds to the beauty and enjoyment that race participants experience.
Marathon organizers have plans in the works in case increased train traffic necessitates changing the course. However, the railroad companies should consider a goodwill gesture and find a way to leave a significant block of time train-free on race day in Columbus.
That would go a long way with a community that has been impacted plenty by the railroads in recent years, and will be impacted even more in coming years.
Columbus has had to scramble to raise $30 million to construct a railroad overpass at the State Road 46/State Road 11 intersection west of downtown. With construction starting in 2019, that’s meant to offset vehicular traffic delays from the anticipated increase in train volume coming through Columbus. The trains will also likely disrupt other programming at the park in the coming years, events such as the annual Our Hospice of South Central Indiana concert, the Columbus Craft Beer Fest and the Exhibit Columbus gala.
Finding a way to keep the Mill Race Marathon train-free in the forseeable future would be a great way for the railroads to show their appreciation for Columbus.