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June 30, 2013

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

(Continued)

The company’s trains haul grain, lumber, fertilizers, automobile parts, scrap steel and cement, Gilbertson said. The trains also transport U.S. Army trucks and tanks to and from Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh.

CSX Transportation hauls similar materials and delivers to customers, such as General Electric in Indianapolis and Ford in Louisville.

The new tracks would allow train cars to carry heavier loads on the route, but neither company would haul hazardous material into the area that could be toxic when inhaled, said Amanda Rice, spokeswoman for the Louisville & Indiana Railroad.

Louisville & Indiana Railroad trains currently carry small amounts of hazardous materials, such as ethanol and chemicals used in detergents, Gilbertson said.

Train lengths on average might be longer on the new track, but engines hauling 100 to 120 train cars aren’t uncommon on the rail line now, and most companies don’t run trains longer than 120 cars, Gilbertson said.

The companies would remain separate businesses, but CSX Transportation would spend up to $90 million to upgrade the railroad and pay the Indiana company $10 million. In exchange, CSX would permanently get to run its trains on the Louisville & Indiana Railroad’s rail line.

Almost all of the line’s aged steel rails will be replaced if the partnership gets federal approval, Gilbertson said.

The Louisville & Indiana Railroad Co. has owned the 106 miles of the rail line since 1994. Trains have hauled freight on the railroad for years, dating back to the Civil War, he said.

The company’s tracks are 70 to 80 years old and span a more than 100-year-old bridge near Columbus, where trains currently have to travel 5 mph, Gilbertson said.

The proposed upgrades include replacing the 100-year-old bridge and putting in continuously welded rail in place of the existing jointed rail. After tracks are upgraded, trains will be able to go up to 60 mph and can handle train cars bearing the industry standard weight of 280,000 pounds, rather than the 268,000 pounds per car Louisville & Indiana is limited to hauling currently.

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