BRISTOL – The Town of Bristol is hoping to make some changes to railroad crossings in the future, assuming they can gather property from landowners nearby.
The first change will be the closing of the railroad crossing at County Road 29. The road on either side of the property will be made into cul-de-sacs for drivers to turn around if needed, since the crossing will be gone.
Unfortunately for the town, they need to acquire additional property from landowners on either side of the road in order to create the cul-de sacs. The town has reached out to the homeowners, but haven't yet heard back. Town attorney Glenn Duncan believes the closing will be good for individuals living along the road, though.
"When Bristol built north of the railroad tracks, it created a lot of traffic for those people south of the tracks," he explained, since CR 29 leads to SR 120. "This will stop that traffic. They'll use Commerce Drive (to get to SR 15)."
Bristol is also making way for a new railroad crossing to help with traffic at SR 15 and SR 120 near the center of town.
"The traffic studies of the conjestion at the interection of State Road 15 and Highway 120 indicate that there is a need for an alternate route," Duncan explained. "The reality is having to wait that long to get through the intersections indicates that you probably should have another route that people can choose to get through the Town of Bristol; we really only have one crossing that's being used by the majority of traffic in the Town of Bristol, and at the same time the traffic is increasing at State Road 15 and 120."
The town will also be getting rid of the railroad crossing near Chaptoula Street.
"Years and years ago, there were private (railroad) crossings created within the city limits of Bristol, don't ask me why," said Duncan. "The one what we are giving up that's a private crossing, we call it Chaptoula Street."
"In addition to that one, (Indiana Department of Transportation) said, 'You've got to give up one other public crossing,'' Duncan explained. "You can do it in a variety of ways. You could agree to build an overpass, but that's (another) expense. What the town agreed to do was give up the public crossing at County Road 29."
The alternative railroad crossing will be located at Pearl Street, assuming the business owners on the south side of the tracks agree to the terms.
"They haven't said no they won't convey, but they have not come to the table with a reasonable response," Duncan explained. According to the Bristol Town Council, this project has been in the works for nearly two years.
As such, the council is considering taking legal action to get the project rolling through a legal process called 'eminent domain,' which allows entities to take private property so long as it is intended for public use, and landowners are given just compensation. This process can easily take up to four months, though.
"If you don't do something now, you're dead in the water," Duncan declared at the Thursday night meeting.
Council members agreed.
"This process that we're approaching now at the South side of the tracks, we're at our last resort and that's why we're making the motion tonight and I hope that you all understand that," Ron Norman, Bristol Town Council President, said. "It's not that there's anything personal with the businesses over there, it is just that it's business."
While the council is not yet pursuing eminent domain, they want to make it clear to the businesses that they will if they have to.
"Ultimately, you can take it by eminent domain, but I'm hoping that we won't have to do that because it just leaves a sour taste in everyone's mouth," Duncan said.
In two weeks the council will find out if they'll recieve the Community Crossings road grant, which is a large reason they're pushing to acquire this property soon. The grant would give them $1 million toward the cost of these upcoming projects, which, according to Norman, would save about 30 to 40 percent for the total project cost.
Assuming everything goes as planned, Bristol hopes to begin the road construction projects in 2018.