Mayors concerned about safety as company plans to upgrade railroad line

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GREENWOOD, Ind. (Jan. 27, 2015) – Several mayors to the south of Indianapolis are trying to get their voices heard regarding safety concerns over plans to upgrade a major railroad line though the southern half of Indiana.

CSX railroad company is currently planning upgrades to the 106 mile Louisville & Indiana Railroad Line, which runs between Indianapolis and Louisville. The track runs near US 31 through cities like Greenwood, Franklin, Columbus and Seymour. Upgrades to the line over the next few years are expected to increase railroad traffic with longer and faster trains. And so far, the mayors of those cities say their safety concerns are being ignored by CSX and the federal Office of Environmental Analysis.

“You know the report says we have an average of one-and-a-half trains a day that come through Greenwood,” said Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers. “Well, we’ve got at least 5 or 6 that are coming through town now. But the bigger concern is that when they do upgrade the track, they’re going to increase the speed of the train from 15 to 49 miles an hour.”

Myers and other mayors want CSX to pay for new flashing lights and crossing arms at intersections along the rail line.

“They say the accident data is not there to justify crossing arms,” Myers said. “Well I don’t want to be the mayor that has to wait for somebody to have the accident to justify the crossing arms. I think we need to be proactive.”

Another concern is the number of long trains stopping and blocking intersections for hours at a time. Teri Hutchison, who has lived next to the CSX crossing on Main Street has noticed more of that lately.

“More traffic, trains sitting and waiting to get in the yards,” Hutchison said “It just takes them forever. They’re here through the night.”

Aside from traffic headaches, Myers argues that the stopped trains represent a threat to emergency response times. Greenwood Fire Station 1 is located directly west of the Main Street crossing. If a fire were to break out to the east while a train is stopped, it would delay the fire department’s response.

“It takes an extra 5 to 10 minutes to reroute trucks to get there, which is a matter of life and death,” Myers said.

If the problem of stopped trains continues, Myers wants CSX to help pay for construction of a new Greenwood Fire station on the southeast side of the city.

“It shouldn’t be the cities responsibilities, it shouldn’t be the taxpayers responsibilities,” Myers said. “It should be CSX’s responsibility to foot the bill on this.”

So far, Myers and the other mayors say their concerns have been ignored by CSX and federal officials.

“Yeah, we were just brushed aside, thrown to the curb, however you want to look at it,” Myers said. “None of our requests, not a single one, was given a positive response.”

The mayors will have another opportunity to voice their concerns during a meeting with CSX officials on Wednesday.

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