Louisville & Indiana Railroad and the Indiana Department of Transportation will close the railroad crossing on the east side of the Robert Stewart Bridge early next month for repairs.
The railroad has notified the city that the tracks on the rail spur that runs behind the former Republic building on Second Street and across State Road 46 toward the Upland Columbus Pump House will be closed the evening of Friday, Oct. 6, then continuing Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 7 to 8, for repairs.
The complete closure, planned for the beginning of fall break for schools in Bartholomew County, will mean eastbound access into Columbus on State Road 46 will be blocked for that weekend. Westbound traffic heading out of Columbus on State Road 46 and Jonathan Moore Pike will not be affected by the repair work, city officials said.
“We’re going to make every effort to beat that Sunday deadline,” said John Goldman, president of Louisville & Indiana.
Crews will install a new concrete railroad crossing across the highway, then do some repaving, Goldman said.
The concrete sections being used for the repair are stacked near the spur now in preparation for the repairs.
INDOT is posting a detour for west-side residents, using I-65 to U.S. 31 and heading back south to Columbus, said Harry Maginity, INDOT spokesman. City officials anticipate that many west-side Columbus residents will use Lowell Road as a shorter detour that weekend.
INDOT also will be posting the road-closing signs on eastbound Jonathan Moore Pike and State Road 46 to warn drivers about the upcoming road closing.
Dave Hayward, executive director of public works/city engineer, said the city is hopeful that traffic disruption will be minimal as fall break will be underway for many families who will be heading out of town.
The crossing itself is in need of repairs, with the plates around the rails visibly bouncing as traffic moves over them, he said.
A rain date of Oct. 21 to 22 is listed with the railroad’s request to close the tracks for repairs.
Goldman said the railroad crossing at State Road 46 and State Road 11, which is further west of the spur, does not need to be repaired or upgraded for the railroad’s high-speed rail project.
The city of Columbus has been working for more than a year to come up with a plan to deal with longer, faster and heavier CSX trains that will be using the Louisville & Indiana tracks as soon as the third or fourth quarter of 2018. CSX is leasing the tracks between Louisville and Indianapolis, which travel through Columbus and Seymour, and is investing $100 million in improvements to create a continuous-welded, high-speed rail line for northbound freight.
Columbus is partnering with the state and other entities to build a railroad overpass to bypass the State Road 46 and State Road 11 intersection, which includes a rail crossing, and to build a pretzel configuration so that traffic would not be impeded by trains crossing there.
Cost of the overpass and pretzel configuration has been estimated at $20 million to $25 million, city officials said.