City looking into grant for railroad improvements


Seymour may be able to secure state funding this year to make safety improvements to rail crossings in the city.

The Indiana Department of Transportation is making at least $125 million available for grants to cities, towns and counties across the state for high-priority railroad safety projects on local roads through the Local Trax Rail Overpass Program.

The goal of Local Trax is to encourage the state, local governments, private businesses and railroad companies to work together to increase safety, improve mobility and enhance the quality of life for Hoosiers.

Although grade separations or overpasses are eligible for funding through Local Trax, Mayor Craig Luedeman doesn’t think the city’s proposed overpass will be approved because the project already has received around $8 million in federal transportation funding.

But he does plan to learn more about the parameters of the program and work with city engineer Nathan Frey to submit qualifying projects.

“I’m never going to turn down going after money for the city,” Luedeman said. “I would love to get some of this money for our overpass. I just don’t know if we can.”

Luedeman said he thinks it’s a better idea to look at the program for upgrades to existing rail crossings.

“I think we should be asking for help to put up crossing arm gates and lights, especially at Sixth Street, and then we might be able to close another crossing,” he said.

He also said the city is working to get approval for a pedestrian crossing near the downtown to make it easier and safer to walk from the new Crossroads Community Park to One Chamber Square and further downtown. It’s a project that may be eligible for funding through the Local Trax program, he said.

INDOT will begin accepting project proposals for Local Trax funding on May 1. The application window will stay open until Aug. 31, and funding will be awarded in late summer. Projects must go out for bids by Jan. 1, 2022, to remain eligible for funding.

The program requires local governments to provide 20 percent of funding for land acquisition and construction. Federal transportation funds cannot be used as matching money. The state funds the other 80 percent along with design costs.

Submitted projects will be evaluated on their viability, financial match, hazard index at the crossing, average daily auto traffic, freight train traffic, number of crossing closures and community population.

Funding for Local Trax was granted in House Enrolled Act 1002, the long-term, sustainable road funding plan approved by the Indiana General Assembly and signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb in April 2017.

“Local Trax is an innovative approach to infrastructure funding that creates a partnership between the state and communities willing to put skin in the game toward improving their local roads,” Holcomb said in a news release. “Eliminating at-grade rail crossings on local roads makes our transportation network safer, reduces congestion and better connects our communities.”

INDOT will conduct a series of meetings across the state later this month for local officials to present program details and requirements and answer questions. The Seymour District’s meeting will be at 1 p.m. April 13 at the INDOT Seymour District Office, 185 Agrico Lane.

The state already has awarded Seymour about $8 million in federal transportation funds to pay for the first phase of construction of a bypass connecting Burkart Boulevard and U.S. 50 on the east side of the city with Airport Road and U.S. 50 on the west side.

Phase I will take Burkart Boulevard from U.S. 50 on the east side of the city south through farm fields to South O’Brien Street near Silgan Plastics.

The project includes construction of a railroad overpass to give motorists a route for getting around trains traveling on the Louisville and Indiana Railroad line, which runs through the city bisecting it into east and west halves. The overpass will cross the rail line southeast of Silgan and just north of East County Road 340N.

Construction won’t begin for another two years until after the project goes out for bids in July 2020. It will take two years to build Phase I, Frey said.

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