|Railroad tracks being upgraded; increased train traffic anticipated|
|Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor|
Feb. 22, 2006 — Kansas City Southern Railways work crews have been busy in and around Sulphur Springs replacing cross ties and ballast rock along the KCS tracks. The crews have now started work to rebuild street crossings as part of the upgrade.
"We are pouring a ton of money into that roadbed," said Mike Van Tiem, project engineer for Kansas City Southern.
Beginning next week, crews will begin work on the major street crossings at the various state highways in Sulphur Springs.
Ernest Teague, area engineer for Texas Department of Transportation said each of these crossings will be closed during the daytime hours while the crews are at work, but will be reopened at night. TxDOT crews will provide traffic control, directing drivers toward alternate routes while the railroad crews are working.
While the crossings are closed to traffic drivers will need to find alternate routes around the work areas.
On Monday and Tuesday, the crossing on Main Street will be closed. Then on Wednesday, the crossing on Gilmer will be closed, followed by Oak Avenue on Friday.
"At least this is the tentative plan," Teague said. "We realize the need to be flexible, and we are hoping that local drivers understand this also."
The rail height is being raised slightly and the railroad work crews will be leveling the road back up following the rail work.
Drivers are being urged to slow down a little more than normal at each of the street and highway crossings through town, until they become accustomed to the new track elevations, and any associated "bumps" that might be felt.
The work being done is a prerequisite to an increase in train speeds through town.
KCS spokesman Van Tiem said the speeds might increase five to 10 miles per hour.
Train speeds on the "class four" tracks can be as high as 60 mph, but Van Tiem said the more significant increase will be in the number of trains passing through town on a daily basis due to agreements with other railroad companies.
One such agreement, with A&S, will have more trains from Meridian, Miss., through Sulphur Springs on the way to Denton to connect with Burlington Northern-Sante Fe tracks.
"They are already putting a half-dozen more trains on our line right now," Van Tiem said. "We are going to be coming right through Sulphur Springs with them. We have already increased on the volume of traffic, but there is still more coming."
With more trains and possibly higher speeds, city officials remain concerned with delays in the installation of new electronic crossing guards.
Guy Godfrey in TxDoT's Austin office had the responsibility of negotiating with KCS to complete the crossing guard program and said last week the state was still waiting for circuit diagrams, layouts and estimates.
"I have been bugging them about it, in fact the last time I asked them about it was just last Tuesday," Godfrey said. "The designers in Kansas City are supposed to have all the quotes from the electronics company within the next couple of weeks."
Mike Van Tiem said federal requirements have changed at least two times in the past 18 months, and KCS has had to go back to the manufacturer for new specifications each time.
Just when will the project be completed?
"I have no clue," Van Tiem said. "I don't know where that stands right now."