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Increase In Trains Could Lead To Traffic Tie-Ups In Seymour
Updated April 14, 2015 7:36 AM | Filed under: Transportation
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(LOUISVILLE) - U.S. regulators have cleared the way for CSX Corp. to move heavier and faster trains on an improved rail line planned between Louisville and Indianapolis.

WDRB reports that The Surface Transportation Board on Friday approved letting CSX share a 106-mile line north of Louisville owned by Jeffersonville, Ind.-based Louisville & Indiana Railroad Co. CSX would make up to $90 million in improvements and pay $10 million to L&I for the rights to use the tracks.

The railroad operators sought the deal in order to ship freight more efficiently in the Midwest. But the plan also drew concerns from local officials worried about increased train traffic and the prospect of carloads of hazardous materials traveling at faster speeds.

CSX has seven years to complete the track upgrades, which would allow trains to travel 60 miles per hour, up from the existing 25-mile-per-hour speed limit, and carry more weight. The work would be privately funded.

Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSX now operates two trains on the L&I line in Southern Indiana, but it plans to eventually move 15 trains a day between Louisville and Indianapolis, according to documents filed with regulators.

The planned infrastructure upgrades to this line will benefit CSX and (Louisville & Indiana) customers in the Midwest and across the companies' networks with improved operational efficiency, more direct transit across Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, and reduced congestion on certain CSX lines across these states according to CSX spokeswoman Kristin Seay.

CSX believes it will save nearly $12 million a year - the result of avoiding congested rail lines near Cincinnati and other changes to its operations.

L&I, a subsidiary of Chicago's Anacostia Rail Holdings, plans to use its proceeds to make improvements to its facilities.

The changes to rail traffic in the region would affect the Louisville area, with delays expected at some crossings that now are lightly traveled.

Train traffic would rise nearly three times over current levels at L&I crossings at Charlestown Road in Jeffersonville, close to Interstate 65; and at 11th Street near Broadway in Louisville. Similar increases are expected at crossings along a CSX line in Louisville.

The University of Louisville and the city's public works departments both raised concerns about the increase in trains in comments to federal regulators.

Among other things, the railroads have agreed to pay for hazardous materials training for emergency responders in communities along the line between Louisville and Indianapolis and improve visibility at at-grade rail crossings.

In addition, federal officials are requiring the railroads to meet with state transportation and local officials in the next three months to identify crossings that need additional safeguards. Once the heavier train traffic begins, the railroads must notify local emergency officials when a train blocks a crossing for more than 10 minutes.

The Surface Transportation Board also is requiring the railroads to pay for closed-circuit cameras in Seymour, so that the Jackson County EMS and other agencies can monitor stopped trains.

The L&I line crosses U.S. 50 in Seymour, not far from Schneck Medical Center. Luedeman said an increase in trains could lead to traffic tie-ups, potentially adding time to ambulance runs to the hospital.

"Basically there was always that concern that if somebody is on the east side of town and the hospital is on the west side of town, how are we going to get to and from with the trains the way they are?" he added.

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