City to close St. Louis Avenue rail crossing to vehicle traffic

City officials are trying to decide how to route traffic along Indianapolis and St. Louis avenues in downtown Seymour with the expected closure of the railroad crossing where the two roads meet.

Mayor Craig Luedeman said the railroads, both the CSX and the Louisville and Indiana, want the crossing closed as they continue to prepare for an increased number of trains coming through the area that are longer, faster and heavier.

“Sooner rather than later,” Luedeman told city council members during a meeting Monday.

The railroad is preparing to make improvements where the CSX and L&I lines meet, just south of the St. Louis and Indianapolis avenues crossing. Those improvements will raise the track up slightly, said city engineer Nathan Frey.

“The geometry at the St. Louis crossing is already bad,” Frey said. “Their improvements will only make our crossing worse.”

As chairman of the thoroughfare committee, Councilman Brian D’Arco introduced the topic Monday and said the best solution he had heard so far was from Councilman John Reinhart.

Reinhart suggested making the short stretch of Jeffersonville Avenue from the tracks south to Tipton Street one way, going south only.

“The only thing through there is the bank parking lot and an empty grassy lot,” Reinhart said. “That way, you don’t have anybody going north on Jeffersonville trying to make that turn.”

Reinhart said he didn’t know if it was a good idea or not but was concerned that not changing it could lead to problems.

Councilman Matt Nicholson said he is worried that making Jeffersonville Avenue one way will negatively impact Rails Craft Brew and Eatery and other businesses on that block.

He suggested the city just close the crossing and not change the traffic pattern at all.

Councilman Dave Earley said he thought that sounded like the simplest idea.

“Leave it the way it is and we won’t have traffic problems. We just close off that intersection and you don’t have to worry about people changing anything except they can’t cross over,” Earley said.

Both Reinhart and D’Arco said they would like to have Frey study the area more to see what the best option might be.

Frey said Thursday he sees two options — remove the on-street parking along Indianapolis Avenue between Second Street and St. Louis Avenue and make it a two-way street or leave it as is and put up signage to direct motorists.

He prefers the second option.

“This will still allow parking along Indianapolis Avenue,” Frey said.

To close the crossing, guardrails will be installed at the edge of the railroad’s right of way on both the east and west sides of the tracks to prevent traffic from crossing over to the northbound-only side of Indianapolis Avenue. Also, the road pavement within that right of way will be removed.

“The biggest benefit to the city is an increase in safety,” Frey said.

This particular railroad crossing is one of four in the city identified as being the most dangerous. The others are Fifth Street, Seventh Street and Bruce Street or South Street. Frey said the city is looking at closing all four.

The Indiana Department of Transportation will pay the city $15,000 for closing the St. Louis Avenue crossing, Frey said. Funding also would be available for closing the others, he said.

“In general, the railroad is always looking to reduce vehicle/train and pedestrian/train conflict points,” he said. “An accident between a train and vehicle does not happen very often. However, when they do, the outcome is usually not a good thing.”

Frey said if the city approves the plan to close the crossing, it will happen sometime this summer.

But council President Jim Rebber said he doesn’t care about the railroad companies’ timeline and is more concerned with doing what is right for the city.

“Quite frankly, no more than they take care of the Second Street crossing, I don’t care about their time frame,” Rebber said. “You almost have to stop to go over there. They didn’t bother to fix that last fall.”

He would like to hear from people who frequently travel the area and from the businesses that may be impacted by the change.

“It’s going to affect some people,” he said.

Rebber said he most often uses the crossing as a quick way to get to Ewing Street or State Road 11 from U.S. 50.

No matter what happens, D’Arco said he expects there will be a lot of confusion from motorists at first.