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A discussion on Monday at a meeting of Vandalia’s and streets and public safety committees pitted the possible preservation of a short-line railroad here against the efficient flow of traffic within the city.
Charlie Barenfanger, president of Illinois and Western railroads, said that placing stop signs at four major railroad crossings in the city is the only way to hold insurance costs down and keep the local railroad company viable. Having the railroad operational, he said, is crucial to attracting a business that is considering buying the former Graham Packaging building on the city’s north side.
We’re all for doing what we can to attract new businesses and accommodate existing ones. And there are concessions that are worth making for an attractive prospect.
But is the still-uncertain possibility that a new industry might locate here because of the rail connection worth disrupting traffic patterns on four of Vandalia’s major east-west streets? The affected routes would be Randolph, Jefferson and Fillmore streets, and Janett Avenue.
Those streets carry a lot of traffic. And backups are already common during certain hours of the day – 8 a.m., noon and 5 p.m. The intersection on Fillmore is particularly congested before and after school as students and parents travel to and from the junior high and high school. Adding stop signs for east-west traffic will create even worse bottlenecks.
Responding to a history of car-train accidents at any of those intersections isn’t the issue. Trains are moving at only a few miles per hour when they cross those streets, and all the intersections are protected by crossing signals. In fact, the accident cited by Barenfanger involved a single vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed on Janett Avenue. No train was involved.
The public safety and streets committees took no action on Monday; any formal decisions will be up to the full city council.
We urge them to consider the proposal fully before unnecessarily disrupting the flow of traffic on some of our busiest streets.