Options considered to lessen railroad impact on Columbus

One of the options being offered as a way to relieve the traffic tie-ups caused by increasing train traffic in Columbus comes with a hefty $94 million dollar price-tag.

After improvements to the railroad lines through Columbus and the Flatrock River bridge over the next year, train traffic is expected to increase dramatically with as much as one train an hour coming through the city, cutting the downtown area off from the west side. The city recently submitted two proposals to INDOT, one seeking a project to elevate Jonathan Moore Pike/State Road 46 over the train tracks.

That proposal was relatively low cost at about $27 million dollars.

Lienhoop said a second proposal submitted involved moving the railroad tracks to the west, away from the downtown area. Since that would mean moving the tracks into the flood plain, that would require lifting the entire length of the tracks. The ticket price for that change was estimated at $94 million.

Part of that would be a bridge more than 3,500 feet long with a cost of about $50 million dollars alone.

Because of the million expense, Lienhoop said that option is unlikely to be approved. But as the city grows, it would be a step to remove future problems, so it was worth asking for.

The city will be looking at state and federal help for either of these projects.

There are options the city can take that do not require tens of millions of dollars nor do they involve major infrastructure changes or the approval of INDOT.

Lienhoop said that the city is looking into the possibility of “quiet zones.” Conductors have requirements on when and where they must blow their horns at night, but the city can seek waivers to change those requirements. That would help reduce the noise the trains make coming through the city.

Leinhoop said the city would initially be looking at establishing quiet zones at Fifth, Eighth and 11th Streets and possibly at County Road 200S. The mayor said that Bartholomew County officials might also seek quiet zones at some of the rural intersections.

The institution of quiet zones would not be completely free of charge though. Lienhoop said each intersection affected would require improved signage, equipment and train signals along with dividers to keep people from driving around stop arms.

He estimated the cost could be several hundred thousand dollars per intersection.