City: 3 more crossing arms

City officials agreed on Tuesday that of the options available to improve rail crossing safety in downtown Vandalia, the best alternative is adding three crossing arms at Sixth Street.
Rodney Potts of John Crawford and Associates presented to Mayor Rick Gottman and four aldermen three options during a 45-minute work session.
Aldermen Andy Lester, B. John Clark, Neil Clark and Jerry Swarm were present for that meeting, which was set after the Illinois Commerce Commission and Illinois Department of Transportation presented their rail safety proposal on Feb. 2.
At that Feb. 2 meeting, the ICC and IDOT representatives said their plan called for one-way southbound traffic on Fifth Street, one-way northbound traffic on Sixth Street and the closure of Main Street from Fifth Street to Eighth Street.
That plan was drafted in response to a car-train accident on the evening of the Halloween parade last October that claimed the lives of four members of a Greenville family, as well as other accidents at the Fifth and Sixth street crossings.
After hearing considerable opposition from a group of about 30 people at the Feb. 2, the ICC and IDOT representatives agreed to “go back to the drawing board.”
The day after that meeting, and the day after that, they contacted Potts, telling him that the next step in the process would be to have city officials put together a plan that they felt was acceptable.
“They are willing to listen,” he said.
Potts told city officials that after the Feb. 2 meeting, the ICC and IDOT had decided not to proceed with the plan for either one-way traffic or the closure of Main Street.
He also said that they had decided not to propose any changes to the Fifth Street crossing other than possibly replacing the existing crossing arms with newer, state-of-the-art arms.
Potts said that the engineers had conducted a traffic count at the Fifth and Sixth crossings between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. last Thursday as a way of gauging just how much traffic there is and the traffic patterns in those areas.
That study showed that most vehicles were traveling north and south on both Fifth and Sixth.
Also, he said, only about 10 percent of vehicles traveling east on Main Street turned over the tracks, and that the number for westbound vehicles turning over the tracks was about 5 percent of the total.
With all parties agreeing that improvements are not necessarily needed at the Fifth Street crossing, the engineers focused on options for the Sixth Street crossing.
Potts noted that upon receiving the city’s preferred option, the ICC and IDOT “have the availability to say yes (or) no.”
Of the options developed to enhance rail crossing safety, he said, “some are going to be acceptable to them, some of them are going to be acceptable to us.”
The first of the three options, Potts said, was “do nothing.”
Alderman B. John Clark said that that is the option that he prefers, understanding that that is not an option that the two state agencies would accept.
Clark later agreed to support an option that Swarm and Lester both spoke in favor of – adding a crossing arm for southbound traffic just north of the main east-west tracks, and adding arms for both eastbound and westbound traffic, with the arms for eastbound traffic to be located west of the local rail spur.
The additional traffic arms would control traffic for both the main, east-west tracks and for the local rail spur.
One disadvantage of that option, Potts said, is that vehicles could get stuck between the four crossing arms on the north side of the tracks, forcing motorists to make a decision on which way to go.
That – a motorist having to make such a decision – is something that the ICC and IDOT want to avoid.
Another negative of that option is the cost, with each crossing arm estimated to cost $150,000.
The city has been told $600,000 has been set aside for improvements at the Fifth and Sixth street crossings, and Potts will ask whether it will be acceptable to use all of the funds for the Sixth Street crossings.
That should be sufficient funds to install three additional crossing arms and make other necessary improvements.
The use of all of those funds at Sixth Street is something that Gottman supports, saying, “I’ve already made it clear that the city has no money to put into this.”
A third option created by the engineering firm would be to block off both sides of Main Street at Sixth Street by installing curbs and guttering, Potts said.
After Swarm said that he prefers the second option, which adds the three crossing arms, Lester said he also likes that alternative, because he is in favor of anything that doesn't create any changes in traffic patterns downtown.
 

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