In the event there is a train crossing in this area, the main arteries to get in or out of downtown are Washington, Michigan or New York Streets. In that mile, there are only 3 ways to get across these tracks in a mile: At Washington St, at Market Street and at 10th Street. Both Market and 10th are 1 lane traffic in either direction. Neither are capable of handling the traffic in and out of downtown. That leaves only Washington St.
As we've seen, lately, there has been major blockages of Washington St due to construction. These have resulted in a perfect storm that have left the entire east side cut off from the city.
In my meetings with CSX, they've explained that the red line marked above is their preferred route. They referred to it as their I-65. It allows them the ability to move the "fastest" through Indy.
So I asked about the other lines near by. For example, I highlighted a leg in YELLOW, just south of Washington St that could be used. They said, that would be possible, but because a switch (to change tracks to the blue line) is an older manual type switch (at the red circle), this would require the train to stop, the crew would have to jump off the train and manually flip a giant switch to allow the train to switch from the yellow line to the blue line. Besides the stopping of the trains, which is what we're trying to prevent, it just takes longer for them to manage.
They said, converting that switch to an electric switch, would cost in the millions.
So I wondered could they bypass the entire downtown area by switching from the red line to the blue line on the westside near Harding Street. They said, it would be possible, but if the red line is their I-65, than the blue line is like Rockville Road. They were very resistant to that idea. So I asked if they would consider it, at least during the RUSH hour. (since without fail, there will always be a train going by during rush hour.) They said they would see if they could do it but reminded me, they're trying to run a business. (As if the thousands of people whose lives stop at these tracks everyday, don't also have businesses to run.)
Some have said that moving this route out from the city center only moves the issue to another area causing trouble for another community. The fact is, the further away you are to the city center, the more likely it is that there are fewer at grade crossings. So while it does move the route out to another community, those other areas are less likely to be stopped by trains or are more likely to have a passable crossing much closer.
I can only take it on their word that they'll investigate the possibilities, but I didn't get the feeling there was much interest.
So, what does that leave us? We have a couple of things we're working on.
As most folks know, I've been working with CSX, their government relations team, our congressman, André Carson, and several State Legislators for possible solutions at all levels of government. None of which are going to be quick.
So what are these possibilities?
First, last year, the state legislature passed a bill allowing for a fund of money to be created to address the huge number of at grade crossings. Separating the rails from the roads by either raising the rail lines over the streets or digging down to allow the roads to go under the tracks. This fund won't be enough to address all the problem areas in the state but it's my hope to have an update here on how we can all advocate to the proper people so that Indy can be competitive for those dollars.