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Morning commutes into downtown Columbus have been a bit more difficult of late for eastbound motorists. The culprit: Additional slow-moving freight trains crossing State Road 46.
The trains need about 10 minutes to pass through completely, enough time to make commuters late for work or an appointment.
The delays would be less aggravating if motorists knew exactly when to expect the Louisville & Indiana Railroad and CSX Transportation trains to come through and plan around them. But the times vary, ranging from 8:45 to 9:10 a.m.
Trains also pass through in mid- to late afternoon, which could make for a double headache for some motorists.
Why is this happening?
Car sales are up nationally, which means additional freight cars carrying more tonnage are coming through Columbus. The extra trains are hauling auto parts and finished Ford automobiles from Kentucky to Chicago.
That’s good news.
The bad news is that just-in-time delivery schedules dictate when the trains will travel through Columbus, as companies on the receiving end try to avoid amassing a stockpile of inventory.
Contributing to the long and frustrating waits for commuters is the fact trains can’t exceed 10 mph when they cross State Road 46 in Columbus. That’s because a 100-year-old truss bridge that runs across Flat Rock River at Noblitt Park, north of the crossing, is out of date and can’t withstand a lot of stress.
Train speeds can’t be increased until the bridge is replaced. L&I and CSX have plans to do that, but work won’t start until 2015 on a $90 million project to replace the bridge and upgrade 106 miles of L&I track between Louisville and Columbus.
Since that fix is a ways off, a more immediate solution is needed.
The railroads say they are trying to reschedule trains to avoid peak rush-hour traffic in Columbus. That’s well and good, but motorists need a clearer timetable on when they can expect relief. Some guessing games can be fun. But this one is getting frustrating.
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