LIMA — A $2.1 million railroad infrastructure project is being described as a “linchpin” to helping alleviate stationary trains blocking crossings, particularly on Lima’s east side.
Ohio Rail Development Commission Executive Director Matthew Dietrich outlined the details of the project Wednesday at Lima Mayor David Berger’s weekly news conference. The project centers around an interchange near Sugar Street where the north-south Indiana and Ohio railway an the east-west Chicago, Fort Wayne and Eastern railways intersect.
“It’s called the Sugar Street interlocking,” Dietrich said. “You can think of it as a traffic light. Right now, there’s just a stop sign, and we’re upgrading it to a modern traffic light.”
An interlocking is designed to use signals to prevent trains from colliding at intersections. Dietrich said the circuitry at the Sugar Street interlocking is antiquated and has been in need of replacement.
“There’s continuous problems and it results in backups,” he said. “Going south, it would affect East Wayne, North Street, High Street all the way down to Elm Street. On the east, it’s Pine, Jackson, Main, Elizabeth and West Streets. Whenever there’s a problem here, trains have to stop and back up.”
The installation of new circuitry would allow trains to notify the interlocking of their approach while still outside the city. In the event of another train blocking the interchange, that train can stop and wait while still outside city limits and away from crossings.
Additionally, the project would include installing a connection track in the northwest quadrant of the interchange, permitting easier transitions from one railway to the other.
“When we put all this together, it won’t solve all our congestion problems in the city of Lima and in Allen County, but it’s a good start,” Dietrich said. “It’s a linchpin project. If we get this fixed, then we can look at some of the other connection issues and address some of the other congestion issues.”
The commission had unsuccessfully attempted to obtain a grant for the project. However, the most recent transportation bill gave the commission additional financial flexibility to fund the installation.
Lima City Council will vote Monday on legislation to grant an easement of 0.1 acres of city-owned property for the project, which is set to begin in the fall and be completed either by the end of the year or next spring.