Work leaves railroad crossings ‘in a bad shape’


County Highway Superintendent Steve Berg filled the Dubois County Commissioners in on different railroad crossing concerns at Monday’s meeting.

Berg said that the work Norfolk Southern did recently on several railroad crossing intersections is unfinished and rough.

“The crossings have been left in a bad shape,” he told the commissioners. “They are so rough that they are dangerous.”

Norfolk went through the Dubois County area in September and did repair and maintenance work on the crossings at 12th, Chestnut, Jackson, Van Buren and First streets, and Styline Drive in Huntingburg; Ferdinand Road; and County Roads 800 West, 720 West, 650 West, 600 West, 400 West, 1000 South, 1100 South, and 1200 South. The company continued on, working at crossings in other counties, with the intention of coming back and smoothing out the areas, Berg said.

“But you can’t leave it this rough for a long time,” he added.

The county highway department has already gotten calls of concern about the locations, including one from someone who said a motorcycle hit a rough spot at a crossing at the county line and crashed.

Berg said he is contacting Norfolk to fix the problem areas as soon as possible. The Herald could not reach a Norfolk representative for comment.

Berg also told the commissioners that he has collected letters of support for installing crossing arms at the railroad crossing on County Road 600 West near Duff.

The commissioners also signed a letter of support.

“The stop arm is the ideal solution,” Commissioner Elmer Brames said. “There are stop arms elsewhere in the town, and those roads are not as heavily traveled as that one.”

Berg added that more than 1,000 vehicles travel on 600 West each day.

The effort to get the crossing arms started after the county heard from Velpen resident Sam Schwenk about the matter. Schwenk’s wife, Shelly, was injured Sept. 5, after her northbound vehicle collided with a train at the crossing; the accident totaled her car. She did not see the lights because the nearby cornfield created a blind spot and the lights were fuzzy and not easily visible in the daylight sun.

Commissioner Chad Blessinger said Monday that a Pike County resident who uses the road often called him on the matter. The caller said that when coming to the crossing, he has been close to the tracks when he heard the train whistle, but the warning lights were not yet flashing.

“Maybe someone needs to stand out there and watch when the train comes,” he said. “If that light doesn’t come on, if you get within 50 yards of that, that’s a short distance to try to stop. I just want to make sure it’s functioning, and it’s functioning early enough.”

Hostetter said he’s also been told that at a certain time of the day, the flashing light can’t be seen because of the sun’s glare on it.

“That’s where a stop arm would help,” he said. “If you can’t see the lights, you can see the stop arm.”

Berg is going to send the letters and information supporting the need for the crossing arms in a packet to the Indiana Department of Transportation, the state agency responsible for protection at railroad crossings. He plans to send a copy of the packet to Norfolk Southern officials as well, “so that both sides are aware of what’s going on,” he said.

The commissioners also:

• Learned from Sheriff Donny Lampert that the police vehicle that went into high water during the recent inclement weather is a total loss. Lampert said he plans to add the insurance money to money in his department’s budget to get another vehicle

• Heard from Lampert that officers interested in becoming the school resource officer for the Northeast Dubois County School Corporation will be interviewed today. Although Lampert will ultimately select the officer, a committee of county and school officials will conduct the interviews.

• Gave Republic Transmission of Chesterfield, Missouri, permission for its heavy trucks to use portions of several county roads for hauling equipment as the company does pre-construction work for the future installation of a high-voltage electric transmission line from an existing substation in Duff to a substation in northern Kentucky. The county roads that will be used are Holland Road East and County Roads 500 West, 625 West, 1100 South and 1200 South in Cass Township; County Roads 585 West, 650 West and 750 South in Patoka Township; and Old Road 64, Holland Road Northeast and County Roads 650 South and 800 South in both townships. A bond of $1,314,300 will be held to ensure that Republic Transmission restores the roads to their current condition when the company is done using them.

• Decided to reach out to some consulting firms that can advise the commissioners as they review the information from companies interested in conducting the feasibility study for a new security center; the study is required by state law. The county has been studying the current and future needs of its criminal justice system, especially the needs of the security center after the Indiana Department of Correction in April 2017 mandated that the county address overcrowding in the jail.

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