Gov. Eric Holcomb
visited Chesterton on Monday to announce the launch of Local Trax--the
newest state matching program for transportation improvements, specifically
for railroad crossings.
Similar to the
Community Crossing grant program, Local Trax is a partnership between the
State of Indiana, the Indiana Department of Transportation, and Norfolk
Southern that will provide matching funds to municipalities that make
improvements to railroad crossings. While Community Crossing is a 50-50
match, projects selected for Local Trax will be 80 percent funded by the
state and 20 percent by the communities that propose them.
“This is an 80-20
match,” Holcomb said. “I call that a good deal.”
“This is all about
decreasing congestion and increasing safety,” he added.
The main focus of
the program is improvements to at-grade railroad crossings--crossings at
street level that interrupt traffic. Indiana has more than 5,000 of such
crossings, and locations where a crossing causes severe congestion or
frequent collisions will be high priority for receiving funds for a number
of safety enhancements and grade separation projects.
projects limit interaction between motorists and trains through the
construction of overpasses, underpasses, and bridges. Assistant
Vice-President of Government Affairs for Norfolk Southern Darrell Wilson
said, “The safest grade crossing is no grade crossing at all.”
Town Council Member
Emerson DeLaney, R-5th, did say that Chesterton isn’t in the market for a
bridge. DeLaney reported that the town has entertained the idea of a grade
separation at the Dickinson Road crossing in recent years and found the
project to be cost prohibitive at $12 million. “What we might be looking at
are the extra safety features,” he added.
Joe McGuiness said the program could help communities that aren’t in the
market for grade separations fund safety enhancements such as flashing red
indicators and automatic stop bars to reduce the risk of accidents at
crossings. He noted that some crossings in Indiana have only a stop sign
alerting drivers to pause and check for an oncoming train.
The application for
Local Trax will go live May 1 and communities have until Aug. 31 to submit
proposals. Large and small communities and counties are eligible to apply.
$125 million in funding will be available.