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Collision course? Faster trains drive safety, business concerns


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Franklin business owner Tom Wyss has an auto body shop right next to the  Louisville & Indiana Railroad line. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
Franklin business owner Tom Wyss has an auto body shop right next to the Louisville & Indiana Railroad line. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal

April Cravens lives next to the Louisville & Indiana Railroad line and is concerned that the more trains and the faster they go on the tracks, the more car accidents will happen at her corner. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
April Cravens lives next to the Louisville & Indiana Railroad line and is concerned that the more trains and the faster they go on the tracks, the more car accidents will happen at her corner. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal


Every day a Franklin woman sees dozens of cars cross the railroad tracks near her house without stopping at the stop signs, and if faster trains come through the county, she worries drivers will be killed.

April Cravens, who lives on Lynhurst Street next to the Louisville & Indiana Railroad tracks, often sees cars try to beat trains through the crossing, she said.

“They know they can beat the trains because they’re slow,” she said.

If drivers continue to expect the trains to be slow, then the faster trains proposed to begin using the railroad line could mean accidents nearly in her front yard, she said. Her 10-year-old and 13-year-old sons for months have loved to watch the dozens of train cars that roll past their house, but she worries that they could witness a train-vehicle crash and how that would impact them.

Feedback

The Louisville & Indiana Railroad Co. and CSX Transportation Inc. have applied to the federal regulator of railroads, the Surface Transportation Board, for permission to partner. The partnership would allow the Louisville & Indiana Railroad to upgrade its tracks so that faster trains can be run on them. If the partnership goes through and the tracks are upgraded, then CSX will be able to run more trains on the line. The Surface Transportation Board is accepting comments from people with concerns or interest in the project.

What’s happening: The Surface Transportation Board will publish a draft environmental assessment on the rail line project and post it to www.stb.dot.gov this week.

How to comment: Visit the Surface Transportation Board website www.stb.dot.gov. Click the drop-down menu for “E-Filing” and select “Environmental Comments.” Fill out and submit the online form. The deadline is Sept. 30.

Letters can also be mailed to: Dave Navecky, Surface Transportation Board, 395 E St. S.W. Room 1104, Washington, DC 20423

What’s next: The board plans to complete the environmental review by Nov. 6. The board expects to make a decision about the partnership and project by Dec. 6.

The Louisville & Indiana Railroad Co., which is headquartered in Jeffersonville, has asked for federal approval to partner with CSX Transportation, a larger railroad company, to upgrade its tracks. CSX already runs some trains on the rail line but needs the tracks upgraded to move freight more quickly.

About 22 miles of the rail line is in Johnson County.

If the partnership gets approved in December, then the Louisville & Indiana Railroad and CSX, which is headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., will replace all 106 miles of the smaller company’s track so they can increase train speeds from a maximum of 25 mph up to 40 mph and run 13 or more trains on the tracks per day, rather than two or three. The track rehab project could cost up to $90 million and work wouldn’t start before 2015.

Starting last Friday and running through September, the Surface Transportation Board is taking public comments and concerns on the project from local people.

More and faster trains would change the way Tom Wyss, owner of Wyss Auto off Graham Road in Franklin, works. He currently tries to plan his automobile paint jobs around the Louisville & Indiana Railroad Co. schedule so a passing train can’t rattle his shop and shake dust onto fresh paint. The garage where he sands and paints cars is next to the tracks.

The trains aren’t always predictable, and sometimes a surprise train ruins a paint job, he said.

If the railroad company increases the number of trains traveling past his shop, he’s not sure how he’ll work around them, he said. One poorly timed train can add at least a day of work per vehicle he’s painting, reducing the number of jobs he can get done and how much money he can earn, he said.

The city of Greenwood has asked that crossings that don’t have warning flashers, bells and automated gates get those improvements as the railroad company upgrades the tracks, director of community development services Mark Richards said in an email. City officials don’t know yet if they will get the safety improvements they’ve requested, he said.

Cravens would like to see safety features beyond the stop signs at the crossing, she said.

Stop signs wouldn’t be adequate safety features if faster trains run on the rail line, Greenwood resident Jason Rumbaugh said. The Louisville & Indiana tracks run parallel to Feather Reed Lane, where he’s lived for seven years.

The crossing closest to his house only has a stop sign to keep traffic from driving in front of trains, he said. Neighborhood children ride their bicycles on a nearby sidewalk and across the tracks, and lights and gates would make the crossing safer, he said.

The Louisville & Indiana Railroad’s tracks are about 500 feet from Isom Elementary School in Greenwood, but passing trains don’t hinder teaching and are just another part of the students’ days, Principal Sondra Wooton said. The tracks neighbor the school’s playground. Wooton doesn’t expect that more trains passing through would be a problem.

“We haven’t had any concerns, and I hope we won’t have any in future,” Wooton said. “I don’t think it’ll have any impact on us whatsoever.”

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