If you live or work in Goshen you know how frustrating it can be waiting on trains. It’s not uncommon for a train to be blocking Madison Street for 10 minutes or more.
You hear their horns, you craft detours to avoid them and when you are forced to wait them out your blood pressure rises as you are likely late to work, or dropping the kids off at school or heading home to fix supper for the family.
Even though trains helped build Goshen, and our economy depends on them, it can still be a nuisance in our everyday life.
In 2009, many construction projects were being planned to assist with the Norfolk Southern Railroad Marion Branch track, which is the single track that goes through the heart of the historic residential area and dissects Goshen College. The projects included:
South Link Road Bridge over the railroad tracks
Winona Trail Tunnel under the railroad tracks at Goshen College
US 33 grade separation (and at that time, no one knew for sure the direction that the Indiana Department of Transportation would take with the routing of the US 33 project)
Quiet Zone where the trains would not blow their horns through the middle of residential neighborhoods
Local resident and business owner, Adam Scharf, made a proposal to the Mayor to find out what it would cost to re-route the Marion Branch around Goshen and connect up with the big Chicago tracks on the outskirts of Goshen.
The benefits of the re-routing seemed many at the time: There would be no need to spend money on three different grade separation projects: South Link Road Bridge, Winona Trail Tunnel at Goshen College and US 33 Bridge.
In addition, the response time for emergency vehicles would be guaranteed to be reduced, due to no wait time on a train to clear the tracks. This is especially important with a significant area of residential on the east side of the tracks and Goshen Hospital on the west side.
So, the Mayor asked for the Norfolk Southern Marion Branch Re-routing Study to be completed. American Structurepoint assisted city officials and a volunteer committee to explore the goals of the committee and develop a possible plan.
The committee quickly learned that it was going to take over $100 million to re-route the Norfolk Southern Marion Branch track around the city. So, that alternate was quickly dismissed.
However, many other more financially manageable projects were developed from this study. My team and I are working on many of those projects right now:
Construction of the South Link Road Bridge.
Construction of the US 33 North Connector Overpass.
Marion Branch Realignment to allow the trains to continue at 20 mph through the curve near Lincoln Avenue where the Marion Branch joins the Chicago Line. Prior to the curve realignment, the trains had to slow down to 10 mph. This curve realignment allows for the continuous train speed of 20 mph, and also allows for the various road crossings to be cleared twice as fast, which means reduced delays for motorists.
Safety improvements at each crossing, such as gates and flashers from CR 40 to Lincoln Avenue.
Implementation of a Quiet Zone from CR 40 to Lincoln Avenue.
So, when you see Adam Scharf around town, give him a high five. I would also like to thank the many residents who volunteered to serve on the Marion Branch Re-Routing Study in order to make all of this happen.
Do you have an innovative idea that would make Goshen an even better place to live? Leave your comments below, or CONTACT ME.
Read more about the trains in Elkhart County in this Elkhart Truth article.