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Rail upgrades mean shorter waits

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Starting next week, motorists will notice their wait at railroad crossings on the southside is a bit shorter.

And when they cross over the tracks on their way home in the Center Grove area, Bargersville or farther south, their drive will be smoother.

The Indiana Rail Road Co., which has tracks across western Johnson County between Morgantown and Indianapolis, is upgrading its tracks all across Indiana. The company is welding together rails and tearing out and replacing crossings as part of a multimillion-dollar upgrade.

With that work done, commuters will see faster trains traveling on the southside of Indianapolis.

Trains moving at 10 mph on a 6-mile section of track between West Street and Stop 11 Road in Marion County have been stopping cars for more than 25 years. When they speed up to 30 mph, the trains will cut drivers’ wait times, the company said.

Those faster Indiana Rail Road Co. trains will be matching the speed limit already on the Indiana Rail Road Co. tracks in Johnson County.

As part of their overall project, the railroad company also is making upgrades at 14 spots where the tracks cross streets in Johnson County, installing new wooden, concrete or timber crossings by the end of August, company spokesman Eric Powell said.

The upgrades include crossings on Smith Valley Road, County Road 144 and State Road 44.

A new crossing in Bargersville already has made traveling over the tracks smoother, eliminating bumps that in the past have punctured car tires, assistant police chief Todd Bertram said.

The railroad company also installed gates and lights at two of the crossings in Bargersville within the past year or so, stopping cars cutting in front of trains, he said.

Prior to the gates and crossings, 10 to 15 cars per week would race across the crossing and try to beat oncoming trains, he said. The gates have eliminated that safety hazard, which caused three semitrailer and train accidents in the past 12 years, he said. The accidents could have caused serious injuries, he said.

Another railroad company is working on rail line upgrades for tracks that run from Edinburgh to Indianapolis on the east side of Johnson County, but hasn’t gotten federal approval to start. The Louisville & Indiana Railroad Co. has requested approval from the Surface Transportation Board, a federal agency that regulates railroads, to partner with CSX Transportation of Florida to upgrade its rail line. The companies have not begun work yet because they are awaiting federal approval.

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