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Hope for Railroad bridge

Photo by Greg Bird A bridge over this railroad line in Strunk, would help alleviate crossings being blocked by stopped trains on Mt. Pleasant Road, but construction – if any – faces many hurdles before it can begin.

By Greg Bird
birdman@tmcvoice.com

While the court battles over blocked railroad crossings in McCreary County continues to drag on, some local officials are searching for ways to provide alternative routes to some residents affected by over-long waits in the southern area of the county.
Magistrate Bobby Strunk, along with Deputy Judge Nathan Nevels II and Emergency Management Director Stephen McKinney met with state transportation officials Friday to discuss the possibilities of constructing a bridge over the rail line in Strunk to help alleviate blockages at the Mt. Pleasant Road crossing, one of the more troublesome intersections due to stopped trains.
Strunk had enlisted the aid of the Pine Knot Fire Department and their remote drone to gather aerial photos and video of the area, and proposed a location where a bridge could be built over the tracks off of Highway 1651, connecting to Murray Wilson Cemetery Road. From the new bridge, a new road could be constructed connecting Murray Wilson to Mt. Pleasant – providing an alternative access point to cross the tracks.
Magistrate Strunk, who represents the 3rd District, said he thought the meeting went well, but there still is a lot of work to be done.
“I’m just glad we were able to get someone from the Highway Department to come down here and listen to us,” he said. “They all agreed it was a good idea and possible to do.”
“Our next step has to be getting with Representative Ken Upchurch, who Chairs the House’s Transportation Committee, to get the project up for consideration.”
While local officials felt the visit was very positive, and road officials seemed to indicate such a product would be feasible, permission would still be needed from Norfolk Southern before any construction that impacted their rail-line could be initiated. There were no representatives from the railroad present at Friday’s meeting.
Any possible construction of a new bridge and road will still be a few years away, even if the railroad agrees.
Work would not be able to begin before at least two years of studies and surveys could be completed. The project would also need to be added to the state’s 6-year road plan, and funding budgeted for by the Legislature.
Any bridge over the tracks would need to be longer than originally anticipated, due to the requirement to allow for potential future expansion of the rail line. Such a bridge would need to be at least 100-foot long, with an anticipated cost of about $3 Million for the bridge alone. Additional costs would be in constructing and paving the approximately 1-mile of road connecting the Murray Wilson Cemetery Road and Mt. Pleasant.
Adding a bridge would also allow the county to close the crossing at Thompson Tapley Road, a location with an unmarked crossing. There were two accidents involving trains at that intersection this year alone, one causing the death of a local man.
In the Federal case brought against McCreary and Pulaski County by the Association of American Railroads there has been no activity since a May 22nd memorandum supporting the AAR’s request for a summery judgment. The AAR is asking the Judge presiding over the matter to declare the Kentucky statutes used to cite Norfolk Southern over train crossing blockages violate the Interstate Commerce Act, and therefore are unenforceable.
Locally, the District Court cases against Norfolk Southern, regarding the citations issued by Sheriff Randy Waters on individual trains, has been pushed back until January of next year for a status hearing. Presumably, the case will continue to be delayed until a ruling is made in the Federal case.

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