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Increased rail traffic in Johnson County no illusion

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Motorists wait for a train at the railroad crossing along Stop 18 Road. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
Motorists wait for a train at the railroad crossing along Stop 18 Road. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal

If motorists think they are stopping for more trains, even before a proposal to add more and faster trains to a local railroad line has been approved, they are right.

The Louisville & Indiana Railroad, which runs more than 21 miles through Johnson County, has added two trains each weekday to its schedule. The trains were added before the railroad got approval from a federal board to add trains at higher speeds. But that approval wasn’t needed to add the two trains, officials said.

Two CSX Transportation trains now carry vehicles from Louisville to Indianapolis each day. The trains are allowed on the line due to a track-sharing agreement CSX has with the Louisville & Indiana Railroad and must obey the 25 mph speed limit, according to Mike Stolzman, president of the Louisville & Indiana Railroad Co. CSX recently decided to start sending a morning and late-afternoon train on the tracks in the county to decrease congestion on other rail lines the company uses, he said.

“It’s based off of CSX’s business demands,” Stolzman said.

If the companies get permission from the Surface Transportation Board later this year to replace most of the Louisville & Indiana Railroad tracks, then Johnson County residents could see 13 or more CSX trains daily on the line.

The two new CSX trains double the traffic on the railroad line, which passes by neighborhoods and businesses through Southport, Greenwood, Whiteland, Franklin, Edinburgh and other Indiana cities and towns until the line ends in Louisville. Residents, such as Larry Binnie of Greenwood, said they’ve already noticed the uptick in train traffic.

The additional trains began traveling through the county daily over the summer and belong to CSX Transportation of Jacksonville, Fla. For years, only one train made a daily morning trip through Johnson County north to Indianapolis and an evening trip back, Binnie said.

He drives across the tracks about six times a week and has had to wait in his car a few more times than usual for a train to pass through the railroad crossing on Stop 18 Road near his house.

That wait isn’t much of an inconvenience, particularly if it means the railroad company is doing well, Binnie said.

“I’m pleased to see people being successful. I think it’s a good sign for the economy,” he said.

One of the trains passes through Franklin about 5:30 a.m. every day, and the early wake-up has irked some. If the railroad’s request is approved, that would allow more trains to pass by throughout the day.

Despite concerns about noise, residents won’t be able to get trains rescheduled to suit them.

Because even if the train came through Franklin later in the morning, it would pass through another community along the railroad line early in the morning, Stolzman said.

“We don’t want to annoy our neighbors. You do have to run trains. If it’s not running through a community at one time, it’d be running through a community at another time,” he said.

The CSX trains travel the tracks as part of a 2001 agreement with the Louisville & Indiana Railroad Co. of Jeffersonville, permitting CSX to share the rails.

The agreement will become a closer partnership if CSX and the Louisville & Indiana Railroad get federal approval to work together to upgrade the tracks.

The railroad companies have asked the Surface Transportation Board, which is the federal regulator of railroads, to allow them to partner to upgrade the Louisville & Indiana’s 106-mile rail line and run faster trains.

But the companies don’t need federal permission to run more trains at the existing 25 mph speed limit, which is what CSX is doing, Stolzman said. The companies are required to get permission to partner to replace the line’s tracks, he said.

Trains traveling on the company’s 21.7 miles of rail line in Johnson County can’t travel at speeds exceeding 25 mph, but after the upgrades, the speed limit would bump up to 40 mph.

If the companies get federal permission in December, then they can begin designing the upgrades and could begin construction in 2015.

On the line

A railroad line that runs through Johnson County has asked for permission to run more trains and at a faster speed. But even before getting the approval, the company added more trains. Here is a look:

What: Two trains owned by CSX Transportation of Jacksonville, Fla., began this summer to travel north on the Louisville & Indiana Railroad Co. tracks in Johnson County.

The reason: CSX Transportation wanted to relieve congestion on other routes, so it began sending two northbound trains on the Louisville & Indiana rail line.

The freight: The trains are hauling automobiles from Louisville to


Why they can: CSX has had a track sharing agreement with the

Louisville & Indiana Railroad Co. since 2001.

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