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Editorial: Trains more efficient for freight than trucks

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Waiting for a freight train to pass through a Johnson County crossing can be frustrating for many motorists. But the problem would be reduced somewhat by improvements to the tracks through the county, which would allow the trains to move more quickly and thus clear the crossings faster.

The Louisville & Indiana Railroad Co. wants to partner with another railroad company to replace tracks and a bridge so trains can increase their speeds from 15 or 25 mph up to a possible 49 mph and allow train cars that carry heavier loads. Traffic on the tracks could then go up from about six trains per day to 17.

Drivers would stop more frequently at railroad crossings and hear the horns more often as the trains carrying plastic pellets, automobiles, grain, lumber and other freight pass by neighborhoods.

The project would replace the Louisville & Indiana Railroad Co.’s 106.5 miles of steel tracks and a bridge between Louisville and Indianapolis. CSX Transportation, of Jacksonville, Florida, would pay for much of the up to $90 million project and also pay the Louisville & Indiana Railroad Co. $10 million to share use of the tracks permanently.

Currently, CSX has an agreement with the Louisville & Indiana Railroad allowing the company to use the tracks, but the upgrades would make the line a more efficient route.

With the upgrades, CSX also would be allowed to run longer trains, increasing the length from up to 5,100 feet to 7,500 feet. And rail cars could carry 286,000 pounds of freight, rather than the current 263,000 pounds. The CSX trains primarily carry automobiles.

Railroads are a vital part of the nation’s infrastructure. The amount of freight that can be hauled by a single train is immense. As importantly, that freight is not being carried by semitrailers. The wear on our interstates and major highways by that significant increase in traffic would be staggering.

In addition, the railroad is making the improvements using its own money, while the highways are paid for with taxpayer dollars.

While an increased number of trains will make it more likely that motorists will encounter a train at a crossing, the improvements to the track will mean the wait won’t be as long, even with longer, heavier trains.

Just remember that each train represents a far longer convoy of trucks that won’t be using Interstate 65.

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