“I hear the train a comin’. It’s rolling around the bend …”
“… When I hear that whistle blowing, I hang my head and cry.”
Seymour residents should be able to relate to Johnny Cash’s lyrics as more trains come rolling through the area in the weeks, months and years ahead.
Officials with Louisville and Indiana Railroad recently posted signs at all 14 rail crossings on the north-south line through the city advising motorists and pedestrians to take notice of increasing train frequency, length and speed.
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Those factors are the result of progress being made on a about $100 million plus project to upgrade and strengthen the 106½ miles of rail line that runs from Louisville to Indianapolis. Although the line is owned by L&I, it is also used by CSX Transportation, which is funding much of the work.
Improvements include the installation of new, seamlessly welded railroad track that greatly reduce the noise trains produce by eliminating the clickety-clack sound they make.
The project, announced in 2014 and approved by the federal Surface Transportation Board a year ago, is estimated to take around seven years to complete.
The L&I, founded in 1994, expects to gradually increase the frequency of trains running daily from around three to five to 15 to 18 by 2018. That increase could begin later this month. Some of the trains from the south will turn at Seymour on to the east-west CSX rail line and head toward Cincinnati.
“The L&I has been planning to increase the frequency and length of trains based on market demand,” city engineer Nathan Frey said. Certain seasons of the year create higher demands, he added.
“In the fall, the rail line is used to haul a lot of grain,” he said. “This track also moves many new automobiles as well.”
Frey said the rail traffic impacts Seymour in two major ways.
“The first is safety,” he said. “The second is mobility.”
In a recent meeting with Indiana Department of Transportation, Frey said officials discussed the rail crossing at Sixth Street (State Road 258), and what needs to be done to make it safer.
“This is our second-highest used crossing by motorists,” he said. “The city is working with the state to make this crossing safer by upgrading the equipment and possibly adding gates.”
City officials also are looking at ways to upgrade equipment at many of the other crossings as well, he added. But cost is an issue, because most of the crossings are the city’s responsibility, not the railroad company’s, Frey said.
By improving and possibly closing some crossings, the city is looking to help the railroad increase the speed at which trains travel through town. The faster the trains are moving, the less time motorists will have to wait on them, Frey added.
“This will reduce the time that automobile traffic is impeded,” he said.
Right now, trains move through the city at about eight to 10 miles an hour, and they’re 5,000 feet long, Frey said. In the future, they are going to be up to 7,200 feet long. If speed is increased to 25 or 30 miles an hour, as expected, the crossing will be blocked for a third of the time they are now, he added.
Josh York of Seymour said the increase in trains won’t be so bad if they don’t stop.
“I personally have been late to work more than once because a train is stopped on the track, and it spans the length of the city,” he said.
This city is also planning to build a bridge over the railroad to help improve traffic flow and prevent gridlock on U.S. 50 when trains are coming through.
That overpass is included in the proposed route of the south extension of Burkart Boulevard, which all together is expected to cost around $30 million.