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Federal government approves $100 million rail upgrade

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Heavier, faster trains will eventually travel through Indiana after the federal government approved a $100 million rail upgrade to a 106-mile section of track between Indianapolis and Louisville.

The Surface Transportation Board’s approval signals the blessing that both CSX and the Louisville-Indiana Railroad have been anticipating for months.

The joint-use agreement calls for CSX to spend up to $90 million to install longer, fused rail that will allow trains to travel as fast as 49 miles per hour in some areas. Currently, train speeds on the L&I railroad are restricted. The upgrade will also allow for heavier trains weighing close to 286,000 pounds to travel on the tracks that currently max out at 263,000 pounds.

L&I President John Goldman said in previous interviews with I-Team 8 that the upgraded rail will bring his company up to industry standards, allowing and L&I and CSX to better serve its customers.

The project is expected to take less than seven years to complete.

Residents living along the stretch of track can expect to see more trains too – as many as 15 more per day in some areas like Columbus, Indiana. Other communities like Greenwood, Franklin, and major cities like Indianapolis and Louisville will see increased train activity as well.

“This project enhances critical rail infrastructure that connects local customers to America’s freight transportation network, supporting local manufacturing, economic development, jobs and competitiveness,” Peter Gilbertson, chairman and CEO of Anacostia Rail Holdings (L&I Railroad’s parent company), said in a news release issued Friday.

But not everyone is singing the project’s praises.

In previous interviews with I-Team 8, Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown and Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers expressed concern that the increased train volumes would pose a threat to public safety by delaying ambulance, police or fire response times. Myers made trips to Washington D.C. to meet with Indiana’s delegation in an effort to have his voice heard over concerns that many of the rail crossings in Greenwood lack crossing arms.

As part of the federal government’s approval, mayors of the cities and towns along the L&I line are expected to meet with CSX officials in the coming months to address ways to mitigate those concerns.

CSX officials have indicated previously that they would not pay for crossing arms but would help to maintain them.