Council goes for it

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By The Staff

The chances are slim, it’ll cost at least $10,000 even if they fail, but the La Grange City Council is going to try to get railroad crossing gates across Second Street to preserve the city’s quiet zone.

Federal Railroad Administration guidelines stipulate that La Grange must do something at the crossing by June 3 or when June 24 comes, trains will start blowing their horns at about 100 decibels through town and won’t stop until the city meets much more stringent and expensive rules, CSX Supervisor of Public Affairs and Safety Bryan Glover said.

No one at the La Grange City Council meeting Tuesday night said it would be a good idea to let the quiet zone lapse.

If that happened, “We’ll all go nuts, the town will wither and fail,” David Voegele said.

John Black described the train whistle reverberating between the buildings of Main Street.

“It screeches so loud and so hard, you gotta run for cover anywhere,” he said.

The two options the council has considered most are blocking the Second Street crossing from traffic altogether or to make the street one lane going North and install a crossing gate.

Gauging by public comment, the crossing gate is the more popular option with the residents of La Grange. 

John Fendley noted that Second Street is one of the main north/south routes in the city and would create devastating traffic problems if closed.

“It’d be a terrible disaster if this city closed Second Street,” he said. “Do everything possible short of bankrupting the city to keep it open.”

Problem is, the city is way behind on the timeline for crossing gates. Glover said it usually takes about 18-24 months to install a gate. He said they can try to expedite some of the paperwork, but gave no guarantees that it could be done in only nine months. And if crossing gates aren’t finished or a barrier isn’t constructed by June 3, the whistles will start blowing.

Resident Jean Carby said it’s too much risk to try to get the crossing gate instead of focusing on closing the street.

“This is a huge gamble,” she said.

Council member Melanie Woosley agreed, saying it takes a first and second reading on an ordinance as well as the agreement with adjoining property owners to the intersection — in this case the Oldham County Historical Society and the Oldham County Fiscal Court — to close an intersection. These things take time and shouldn’t be pushed back until Spring.

“Nothing happens overnight anywhere,” she said, “But nothing ever happens overnight in La Grange.”

The council originally voted down the resolution 4-3 to start the process on getting a crossing gate for Second. Debbie Pollard and Jean Knight changed their votes to yeses after adding an amendment that if there’s no proof of progress on the gates by November, they will proceed with closing Second Street.

The gates will cost about $190,000 to install, Glover said. If they are not finished in time, the city could lose between between $10,000 and the full cost, although it’s likely some of the equipment could be transferred for use at the Walnut Street crossing after purchase.

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