In the next few years, railroad crossings from Greenwood to south of Franklin will get cross arms and flashing lights in a more than $4 million project.
The county, Franklin, Greenwood and Whiteland teamed up to apply for a federal grant to upgrade 17 local crossings, and the funding was approved.
The upgrades are planned to begin in 2020 to railroad crossings on the east side of the county, along the Louisville & Indiana Railroad.
But longer and faster trains will be running through Johnson County for years before the crossings will be updated with new warning signals.
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Upgrades to the railroad tracks allowing the faster and longer trains to run began earlier this year, and were set to be done by the end of summer. Railroad officials have said they will gradually increase train speeds from the maximum of 25 mph now to the newly approved maximum of 49 mph.
Local officials decided to apply for the grant when CSX Corp. got federal approval to run more trains that will be longer and traveling at faster speeds along the railroad tracks that run through the county from Kentucky to Indiana. The concern from local officials and residents was that an accident could happen with a faster train at a crossing only marked with a stop sign, instead of cross arms and flashing lights.
Officials asked for the federal government to require the railroad company to do the upgrades, but that was not required with the federal approval.
That’s when the local communities applied for the federal grant, which would cover 90 percent of the $4.8 million cost to add more warning signals to local crossings.
The crossings stretch from the Marion County line to County Road 300S, which was the furthest south the county could include under the grant requirements, Johnson County Highway Director Luke Mastin said. The grant would pay to upgrade 17 crossings that don’t have the cross arms and flashing lights, including four in Greenwood, three in Whiteland, seven in Franklin and three in the unincorporated areas of the county.
The county was awarded about $4.3 million, and the local communities will cover the rest of the cost, Mastin said.
But even though the county began applying for the grant in 2015, the money won’t actually be given out for another three years, he said.
Federal grants are awarded years in advance, so the money awarded to the county won’t be available until 2020, Mastin said.
The goal is to have all the crossing work done in the year after the money is awarded, and local communities could look to do at least a few crossings before then if needed if the funding is available, Mastin said.
Despite the wait, the grant is a huge help to the county, Mastin said.
“It is expensive. Without this funding, this is not something we would be able to do on our own,” Mastin said.
Local officials are working with the railroad company on a schedule for construction, and that will be determined as the project gets closer, Mastin said.
A grant to upgrade 17 railroad crossings in Johnson County was approved. Here’s a look at what crossings local communities want to upgrade:
Paul Hand Boulevard
County Road 150S
County Road 250S
County Road 300S
Whiteland Road/East Main Street