COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) — The owner of a rail line that cuts through southern Indiana is planning a $90 million project to replace an aging bridge and make improvements over more than 100 miles of track.
Officials of the Louisville & Indiana Railroad say the project will allow its freight trains to go faster through Columbus and other cities along the route, which generally parallels Interstate 65, The Republic reported (http://bit.ly/17uZpLd ).
CSX trains are hauling auto parts and finished Ford automobiles from Kentucky to Chicago on the line as well, said Michael Stolzman, Louisville & Indiana Railroad's president.
With car sales nationally improving, the "trains are getting bigger and longer, and we're running more tonnage," Stolzman said. "Our volumes are up; and CSX's volumes are up."
The trains can currently only go 10 mph near Columbus because of the condition of a nearby 100-year-old bridge over the Flat Rock River. That's caused long traffic delays on Indiana 46 on the western edge of town, especially during the morning commute in the city about 40 miles south of Indianapolis.
Stolzman said the railroad would like to run trains at 25-30 mph through Columbus, but can't because the aging bridge is out of date and can't take much stress.
Louisville & Indiana and CSX are awaiting approval from the federal Surface Transportation Board of its plans to replace the bridge and upgrade the rest of L&I's 106 miles of track between Louisville and Indianapolis. Stolzman said that approval could come by year's end, although construction isn't expected to start until 2015.
In the meantime, Stolzman said the railroads are trying to reschedule trains to avoid traffic tie-ups in Columbus.
"We're trying to get the train out of that 8:45 a.m. to 9:10 a.m. time slot," he said. "But we also don't want to just kick the problem down the track to Franklin or some other community."
Jim Abbott, a 78-year-old Columbus motorist who was stopped at the Indiana 46 crossing this week, said he's never too upset when stalled by a passing train. If the train is loaded with new products and raw materials, it means the economy is doing better, he said.
"The auto business is what's keeping this rail line running right now," said Abbott, who retired from a predecessor company of auto parts maker ArvinMeritor. "As long as the car and truck business is going strong, my pension is safe."
Information from: The Republic, http://www.therepublic.com/