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Editorial: Growing trails conceal even greater hazards

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Trails are growing in popularity, especially as they begin to link portions of communities in such a way that people can use them as a route to run errands without a motor vehicle.

But as this network expands, walkers, joggers and bicyclists will encounter hazards that motorists long have faced, such as railroad crossings.

In Greenwood, new railroad crossing arms will protect residents on two major east-west roads, whether they’re driving, jogging or pedaling on their bikes.

A railroad company will put crossing arms at Stop 18 Road, build a bigger crossing at Worthsville Road and install separate crossing arms on new trails that will be added to Worthsville Road as part of a $19 million road project. The new pedestrian crossing arms will be a first in Johnson County, Greenwood community development services director Mark Richards said.

Greenwood hopes to improve safety for both motorists and pedestrians, Richards said. A few years ago, the Center Grove community went on a major effort to raise money for crossing arms after brothers Travis Findley, 9, and Jake Findley, 12, were killed in a train accident.

The Louisville & Indiana Railroad will add the new or relocated crossing arms, but Greenwood will pay for them. The city has no cost estimates but is trying to obtain them from the railroad company, Richards said.

Workers will install the new crossing arms after work starts on the Worthsville Road widening project next year. Contractors will get to bid on the project in February, and Worthsville Road is expected to be closed for about four months throughout the course of the year.

The existing crossing arms on Worthsville Road will be moved to Stop 18 Road because the widened street will be too big for them. Worthsville Road will get bigger arms, but they wouldn’t be long enough to block off the four road lanes and 10-foot-wide trails at the sides of the street.

The proposed trails are expected to get a lot of use and would serve one of the fastest-growing areas in the city, where new subdivisions and subdivision sections are being built.

Greenwood plans to install the new trails as part of a project that will transform a 1.5-mile stretch of Worthsville Road from a two-lane country road into a major thoroughfare between Interstate 65 and U.S. 31. The project would include trails along the length of the road and necessitate crossing arms that come down on the trails, Richards said.

Worthsville Road already has crossing arms at the Louisville & Indiana Railroad tracks, but they won’t be long enough to reach all the way across the street when the street is widened to four lanes, he said. The existing crossing arms will be moved to Stop 18 Road, which will become a major detour when Worthsville Road is closed next year.

Trails are an increasingly popular community asset. Usage has been increasing, and their popularity likely will increase as the networks grow and users can reach an assortment of local destinations without having to drive.

Thinking about and investing in features such as the crossing arms now is an investment that will pay safety dividends for years to come.

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