David A. Fishel
To the editor:
I was reading in the Daily Journal about the two railroads that traverse through Johnson County (“Collision Course?,” Sept. 5). While I feel that the Daily Journal was very fair in the coverage of these two separate stories, I also feel that there is more that can be said about each individual situation.
In the first story about the Louisville and Indiana Railroad’s plans to increase train speeds and train traffic and how this plan could affect some nearby residents, one young mother was concerned for the safety of her children and that they might be a witness to a car being struck while trying to beat the train over a nearby crossing.
Another resident was concerned about how his business would be affected and how increased train traffic would affect how much earnings he could make. Both are legitimate concerns; however, both parties came into the situation long after the tracks were laid down, and both parties knew there was an active railroad adjacent to them.
As for the young mother’s concerns of her children witnessing an accident, a train moving at 25 to 30 mph will cause a fatal accident if a car tries and fails to beat the train. Just because the train speeds increase does not change the mindset of the careless driver who believes “It can’t wait … I have to get across now ….” The train, whether moving at 25 to 30 mph or 45 to 50 mph, is unable to turn away from the collision or stop before the collision; only the automobile has that capability.
In the 1960s, long before the Louisville and Indiana Railroad ever was created, these tracks saw daily passenger train service between Chicago, Indianapolis, Louisville and Jacksonville, Fla. The speeds of those trains reached over 60 mph using the very same rails and the very same grade crossings.
Regular freight train traffic on these rails once reached speeds averaging 45 to 50 mph several times daily traveling between Indianapolis and Louisville. The speed of the trains and the amount of daily train traffic passing through is not something new — they just are making a return to their original route.
The second article was about how the Indiana Railroad “cut off” a landowner from several acres of his farm and how the railroad company was making demands on several Johnson County and Brown County residents living adjacent to the railroad tracks. The concern was private crossings that had been in use for many, many years and were now either being or already had been removed by the railroad during line upgrade work.
The article correctly stated that a state law allows the landowner to build a new crossing to access his land; however, the article did not fully make clear a couple of additional laws that would apply here.
The article stated that the crossing which the Indiana Railroad Company removed was the “only access” to the land in question; therefore the property — without the crossing — is “land-locked” with no other way to access it. Under Indiana state statutes, this cannot be forced upon the owner by the other property owner. In short, if the railroad made it impossible for the landowner to access his property, the railroad is in violation and must provide access to the property in question via an easement over their property.
Secondly, the article also stated that the landowner had “maintained, upgraded and actively used” the crossing that was removed for a consistent period of time amounting to 30 years. In the state of Indiana, there is a real estate law known as “Adverse Possession” where if a landowner (the Indiana Railroad) has allowed without any effort to stop the access by a second party over their property, for any reason, the second party may then claim a reasonable easement across the landowner’s property after a period of 20 years of consistent use.
In plain terms, the Illinois Central Railroad, which owned the tracks before the Indiana Railroad Co., did not attempt to prevent the use of that private crossing, and, after the Indiana Railroad Co. purchased the line, they in turn did not attempt any prevention of use over the private crossing. It becomes a reasonable access easement for the user; he maintained and actively used the crossing consistently without any preventative measures taken by either owner in a 20-year consecutive period.
In conclusion, I feel that the Daily Journal has fairly covered these stories in each article; however, I also feel that a little bit of historical data would have been appropriate to balance out the first article about the Louisville and Indiana Railroad.
This rail line has been traversing through Johnson County for over a century; it is not a situation where something new has been added to the environment. The property owners adjacent to the tracks have been well aware that an active railroad was their neighbor for many years.
The concern of the business owner who fears more train traffic will affect his bottom line — that’s a problem, but both the Louisville and Indiana and the CSX have a bottom line as well. Again, their tracks were there before the business was opened.
I feel that the railroads, both the Louisville and Indiana and CSX, have been straightforward with their neighbors adjacent to the tracks; they have plainly outlined their plans and they are attempting to solicit honest input from the communities they serve and pass through daily. I see this as progress. I would hope that everyone else can honestly look at it with an open mind and see more than just higher speeds and higher train traffic. There is a benefit to this change.