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June 30, 2013

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

(Continued)

Increasing the number of trains traveling through Johnson County and how fast they are going could cause safety concerns for motorists crossing the tracks, said Luke Mastin, director of the Johnson County Highway Department.

Outside of the county’s cities and towns, railroad crossings are marked with only stop signs and road markings, Mastin said.

Fence rows and trees can block motorists’ view until they stop at the tracks, he said. He is concerned about motorists who disregard the stop signs and don’t spot an approaching train from a distance, he said.

Faster trains generally have fewer collisions at crossings, said Peter Gilbertson, chairman of the Louisville & Indiana Railroad.

“For crossing incidents, with the slower speeds, you have more crossing incidents,” Gilbertson said. “If you stop at a crossing and see a train coming sort of slow, some people try to beat it.”

Officials are also concerned about traffic backups more trains would cause.

More trains in Greenwood would cause backups at railroad crossings on Main Street, Worthsville Road and Stop 18 Road, director of community development services Mark Richards said.

Noise could also be a problem in the neighborhoods where bell signals at road crossings will go off more often, Richards said.

But railroad officials said the new tracks should be quieter than the bumpy old one.

Letters from Mastin, Richards and other Indiana officials about their concerns and upgrades they want done are included in the railroad companies’ application to the Surface Transportation Board, the federal regulator of railroads.

The companies are not required to respond to the letters and address each of the concerns, local officials said. The Surface Transportation Board will consider the local letters as part of the approval.

CSX Transportation and the Louisville & Indiana Railroad do not need state or local approvals to replace tracks and increase train traffic, but the federal board will consider local concerns and the two companies plan to talk more with community leaders, Gilbertson said.

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