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June 30, 2013

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

(Continued)

That style of track allows trains to travel more quietly because they don’t bump against joints every 15 feet or so, Gilbertson said.

“It’ll handle faster speeds. It’ll handle heavier cars. It’s safer,” he said. “It’s superior in every way.”

Partnering with CSX Transportation means the smaller company can upgrade its rail line and possibly get more business.

“The cost of that is significant, and it’s beyond what we can afford to do,” Gilbertson said.

The deal also allows CSX Transportation to move freight more efficiently between Indianapolis and Louisville. The Louisville & Indiana’s route is the only direct railroad route between the two cities, and the company’s trains would not stop between the cities.

CSX Transportation’s current routes are too busy for more trains and freight. Shipping freight on the upgraded railroad would cut the company’s delivery times by about 130 hours per day and save $11.8 million annually, according to the companies’ paperwork filed with the Surface Transportation Board.

The two companies have been talking about the partnership for four or five years, but the recession slowed any progress, Gilbertson said.

The Surface Transportation Board by law has to address the companies’ plan by December. The board will study whether the partnership will give companies a competitive advantage and how the construction project could impact local wetlands and wildlife.

If they get federal approval, the companies then can begin work to rebuild the rail line.

The companies’ plans include replacing the tracks, building a new bridge and updating Louisville & Indiana Railroad’s dispatch system within seven years. Company officials declined to provide specific cost breakdowns, but said the bridge will be the single most expensive part of the project and will take the longest to build.

The dispatch system is how the railroad company follows a train’s travel progress and ensures tracks are clear of one train before another enters that section of track. Dispatchers work like air traffic controllers at airports. Currently, dispatch workers for the Louisville & Indiana Railroad keep paper notes and make manual entries into computers, Stolzman said.

The new system will be fully computerized and show on a map where trains are safely allowed to be at a given time, Stolzman said.

 

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