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Spike in train traffic frustrates some

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He already knows the drill if he sees a line of cars waiting at the railroad crossing he travels over every day on his way to and from work in Franklin.

Brad Smith waited for 30 minutes for a train to move and quickly learned his lesson. If he gets stopped at the crossing at Earlywood Drive, he’ll turn around and head north on U.S. 31, searching for a place to cross the tracks where there isn’t a train blocking his path.

About six months ago at Earlywood Drive in Franklin, traffic began to back up 50 cars deep about 5 p.m. daily because of a stopped train, Smith said. In the morning, trains occasionally have made him late to work at KYB in Franklin, where he is an information technology manager. The train that stops in the evening is more of a problem, though, because it isn’t moving as it unloads cargo for 20 minutes or more, he said.

The Louisville & Indiana Railroad, which has more than 21 miles of track running through Johnson County, during the summer began running an additional two trains each weekday.

The trains were added before the railroad got approval from a federal board to add trains at higher speeds. But no approval was needed to double the number of daily train trips on the tracks, officials said.

And if the Louisville & Indiana Railroad and CSX Transportation get permission in December to replace most of the tracks, Johnson County residents could see 13 or more trains daily.

The trains travel past Endress+Hauser’s entrance on Worthsville Road, stopping motorists at the tracks for about five minutes at a time, training manager Don Cummings said.

Cummings lives in Greenwood, about a 10-minute drive from Endress+Hauser. Greenwood’s plans to widen Worthsville Road and turn it into part of an east-west corridor across the county is a concern for him, especially if the railroad companies continue to increase the number of trains they run, he said.

More trains could cause additional congestion at the tracks once Worthsville Road is supposed to be a higher-speed boulevard, especially since the trains seem to be slower than in the past, Cummings said.

Franklin City Council member Rob Henderson recently sat waiting in his car at a crossing for 25 minutes while a particularly long train passed. But the trains mostly haven’t disrupted his drive much, he said. They do seem to be slower than in the past, he said.

Some residents would like to see changes. Smith wants the trains that run through Franklin to be scheduled for times that aren’t the busiest commuting hours of the morning and evening, he said.

“They need to do something about it so it’s after rush hour,” Smith said.

The Louisville & Indiana Railroad can’t modify its schedule to accommodate the residents of every city and town, because if a train is no longer driving through Franklin at a certain time it will be driving through another community, company officials have said.

Residents also have been concerned that more trains could mean delays for fire trucks and ambulances.

Such delays haven’t been and shouldn’t become much of a problem, Franklin Fire Chief John Henderson said. Fire stations are already set up on either side of the tracks, so they can be as close as possible if there is an emergency. Paramedics can provide the same level of care in the ambulance as in the emergency room, and other fire departments can help if an emergency vehicle is slowed down by a train, he said.

John Drybread, director of utilities for the town of Edinburgh, wrote to the Surface Transportation Board, which is the federal regulator of railroads, and asked it to consider possible delays to emergency vehicles in Edinburgh if the railroad is upgraded and more trains travel through the area. But assistance from other police and fire departments would limit that impact on Edinburgh, even if a train did cause delays, he said.

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