Board approves railroad upgrades

Seymour Mayor Craig Luedeman said he is not surprised by an announcement that CSX and Louisville & Indiana Railroad will proceed with a project to upgrade 106½ miles of rail line, including a segment running through Seymour.

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board approved the railroad improvement project Friday afternoon after a lengthy study of how it would affect communities along its path.

That study concluded the project would not have a significant impact except for some delays for Seymour emergency services.

The $100 million project is expected to increase the number of trains going through the city from three to five a day up to as many as 15. Those trains will be moving faster and will weigh more, too.

In January, Luedeman and mayors from Columbus, Franklin and Greenwood sent a joint letter to the Surface Transportation Board expressing their concerns over noise, traffic congestion and public safety issues the project may cause.

He said little has been done to address those issues.

The only concession he is aware of is that the railroads will provide closed-circuit security systems so train movements and blocked crossings in Seymour can be monitored by emergency agencies.

“As far as I know, that’s still a part of the deal,” Luedeman said Friday.

City officials have been discussing an idea to build a second overpass on the city’s south side near Silgan Plastics to give traffic a way to get around train traffic.

But that project comes with a price tag of $25 to $30 million.

Luedeman said the overpass doesn’t have to happen, but it would be advantageous to the city if it was built.

“It only make sense to get people around and through the city as safe and as fast as we can,” he said.

Jackson County Commissioner Jerry Hounshel said a project to convert the former Indiana State Police garage on East Tipton Street into an ambulance station remains on track.

He said county officials are waiting for the state to approve the lease for the station, which would help provide medical services to people experiencing a medical problem or issue much quicker if a train was on the tracks. At this time, Schneck Medical Center and the ambulance station are both on the west side of the tracks.

From an economic standpoint, he said the railroad project could be good for the city, giving current and potential businesses a faster alternative to move freight.

He doesn’t know when the improvements will begin, but once it starts, he thinks it will go fast.

“I think we’re already seeing more trains go through, and they’ve already got the track laying out there,” he said.

It has been estimated by railroad officials that the entire project will take up to seven years to complete.

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.