Funding rail enhancements still a priority in Bartholomew County

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COLUMBUS, Ind. – Some money is on its way to help make railroad crossings safer for Bartholomew County drivers, but county officials hope there will be more.

Commissioner Larry Kleinhenz said the county already has $400,000 from a grant to put in a grade crossing signal, or gate arms that stop a driver.

"The improvement that really makes the difference are the arm bars," said Kleinhenz, a Republican. "The gates that actually come down and prevent an automobile attempting to beat the train."

This fall, the county has had two collisions that killed two people. The four deaths are just the latest fatalities that county has seen in recent years along railways.

"It’s always tragic and very alarming," said Kleinhenz.

The commissioners and the county's highway superintendent are looking for more funding to put in more grade crossing signals.

The funding already in place is set to put a signal in near C.R. 800 North. However, Kleinhenz would like to see the money go to installing enhancements at C.R. 550 North, which is where two people were killed in November.

"C.R. 550 gets literally ten times the traffic, maybe 20 times, the traffic that 800 north gets," Kleinhenz said.

The commissioner said he hopes the county can get the proper authority to approve the change and ideally would like to see more money awarded money to go ahead and install the signals at both locations.

Some of the crossings are in German Township, which is the northwest most township of the county.

Township Trustee Chris West said he would like to see a signal go in at C.R. 900 North, too.

West said he has 10 crossings in his township and not all of them have a flashing light to notify motorists of an incoming train. He said he'd like to see that changed.

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