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June 30, 2013

Upgrade down the line: Major rail project aimed at increasing train traffic between Louisville and Indianapolis

Thirteen more trains could zip through Johnson County every day going twice as fast as residents are used to if a joint venture between two railroad companies gets federal approval.

Two or three trains currently travel the Louisville & Indiana Railroad’s tracks on a direct north-south route from Indianapolis to Louisville each day at speeds of up to 25 mph. The rail line runs just east of U.S. 31 through Southport, Greenwood, eastern Whiteland, Franklin, Edinburgh and other Indiana cities and towns until the line ends in Louisville.

The Jeffersonville-based railroad has applied for federal approval to partner with a national, publicly traded train transportation company to overhaul the rail line and increase train traffic. If approved this year, construction could begin in 2015. Johnson County officials are concerned that more trains and faster speeds could cause safety problems at road crossings and bring more noise to neighborhoods near the tracks.

The upgrades would allow Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSX Transportation to run 13 or more additional trains on the railroad at speeds of 40 mph, with a maximum speed of 49 mph. When and how often the trains run would vary by the day.

The railroad’s speed limit increases will happen over the course of months and in increments of 5 mph, said Mike Stolzman, president of the Louisville & Indiana Railroad. The trains’ speed limits on the line will vary based on curves and the condition of the track, Stolzman said.

The railroad companies plan to spend up to $90 million to replace about 106 miles of old steel rail and a bridge. As part of the project, all railway crossings will be upgraded, and additional safety features could be added as part of that work, officials said.

Homes and businesses neighbor the railroad tracks, which cross at least eight roads in unincorporated parts of Johnson County, seven streets in Greenwood, including Main Street and Worthsville Road, and five streets in Franklin, including Commerce Drive and Graham Street.

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