By the end of this summer, faster and longer trains will be passing through Johnson County.
And in the coming months, more trains could be added to the daily schedule.
For now, trains are already traveling at faster speeds in southern Indiana, but slowing down after Seymour because the Louisville & Indiana Railroad tracks that run through the east side of the county are not yet upgraded to allow for higher speeds. But that work is now beginning in Franklin, and will then will move to Greenwood later this month.
Crews have to install new, continuous rails, which can handle heavier trains at an increased speed, Louisville & Indiana Railroad president John Goldman said. That work is part of a multi-million project by CSX, which is upgrading the railroad line in order to run more, longer and faster trains, a plan approved by the Federal Surface Transportation Board two years ago.
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Multiple crossings could be under construction at one time, but that depends on the community and number of crossings it has, Goldman said. Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett questioned officials this week, with a concern about too many crossings in the city being under construction at the same time. Railroad officials work with local governments to make sure emergency workers can still easily get around during construction, Goldman said.
Local officials had raised concerns about the plan to run more and faster trains. Franklin, Greenwood, Whiteland and the county all teamed up to ask for grant funding for a $5.78 million project to upgrade 21 railroad crossings along the Louisville and Indiana Railroad line so each one has crossing arms, to make sure motorists were warned of approaching trains, especially when they are traveling at a faster speed.
That work is still at least a year or two away, and local communities are working on getting the matching funding needed for the grant, Barnett said.
The goal is to finish the upgrades to the railroad line by early August, meaning heavier and faster trains could begin running soon after, Goldman said. CSX could also decide to add up to two more trains to the current schedule. Currently, six trains currently pass through the county everyday, he said.
Signs have gone up at railroad crossings across the county warning motorists that change is coming.
But the change will be gradual, Goldman said.
Trains will shift from the current speed limit of 25 mph to the new maximum speed of 49 mph in phases, he said. First, they will move from 25 mph to 35 mph, then to 45 mph and then to 49 mph, he said. And during that shift, railroad officials will be working to communicate that information to the public, he said.
“We won’t just flip the switch from 25 to 49, we will do it in 10 mile increments to help acclimate everyone,” he said.
For now, motorists likely have noticed they have had to stop for fewer trains.
Trains are not running on the tracks during the 10-hour time period that construction is happening during the day, Goldman said. So it may appear fewer trains are running, when in fact they are just passing through at night, he said.
But that will change once the work stops, he said.
Here is a look at work planned to upgrade the Louisville & Indiana Railroad line on the east side of the county:
Franklin: Closures start today at State and Monroe streets, and then will move to the other crossings listed
Greenwood: Work set to begin by end of the month, schedule to be determined