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Bartholomew County officials hoping to make railroad crossings safer after teens die in crash

BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY, Ind. – The tragic deaths of two teenagers led Bartholomew County officials to take action. The teens died after a train struck their car last week. Now, county councilors are working on plans and they need the state and other agencies to help.

Just steps away from the railroad track on U.S. 31 and County Road 550 North a memorial sits with pieces of a car, a cross and flowers.

“Such a tragic event, such young lives taken,” said Bartholomew County council member Matthew Miller.

It’s not the first time this has happened.

“If you go about two miles down the road, there was a lady who lost her life the exact same thing,” added Miller.

Council members Evelyn Pence, Matthew Miller and William Lentz met at the intersection to see what drivers are dealing with.

“I’ve seen some signs posted at this intersection and a few other ones that basically say be alert, there’s going to be high activity of railroad, moving at faster speeds, but that’s all kind of about all I have seen,” said Miller.

They’re exploring options to make this railroad crossing safer. Right now, there are no gate arms, just signage and lights.

Lentz said, “In the last year or two the train traffic has increased.”

Railroad crossing on U.S. 31 and County Road 550 North

The council is calling on county commissioners, the county highway department, the state, and railroad companies to help.  They say, this is going to have to be a team effort. “I think somewhere in between $200,000-$300,000 for each railroad crossing to install arms, lights and everything,” said Miller.

A big cost that councilman Miller says, can’t be put on the taxpayers.  They want to look into grant options and possibly a study of the railroads in the county.

“Whatever can make things more safe. I can see possibly guard rails, but maybe that would be a hindrance from other oncoming traffic,” said Pence.  That way, no other lives are lost near the train tracks.

“We’re just all very concerned. We want safety for everything,” added Pence.

The council has meetings twice a month.  The first Monday and second Tuesday in the government building.  The council members want to invite the public to come to their meetings and bring concerns, issues or ideas on how to improve county railroad safety.

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