A railroad that runs through the metro-east has temporarily closed just a month after an overpass in O’Fallon was built over the now unused tracks.
A few feet of one of the rails that runs through O’Fallon has been cut from the CSX Railroad’s intersection at Illinois 157 in Caseyville. The recently displaced section of rail has been moved and staked to the middle of the tracks, where a red stop sign has been posted. The displaced rail has the words “8/7/15 the end” written in chalk along the rail.
In a statement released by CSX, railroad spokeswoman Gail Lobin said the railroad’s market fluctuates and is often adjusted depending on demand. She said CSX is not abandoning the line or discontinuing service to local customers.
“CSX is constantly focused on aligning its resources to support overall network performance while still delivering safe and reliable service to its customers, which can include engineering and operational changes to some lines,” Lobin said in the released statement. “The changes along the Illinois subdivision reflect a variety of fluctuations in traffic volumes and patterns as well as increased capabilities on other portions of our network.”
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O’Fallon City Administrator Walter Denton said the city has not received any notice from the railroad about the temporary closure to the railroad which he said extends from Caseyville to Flora, a small Southeastern Illinois town located in Clay County.
He said the city had been discussing and planning the overpass over the railroad tracks at Venita Drive for 15 years. The nearly $7 million project is now complete and opened to the public on July 2.
Denton said the city inquired about the railroad’s future use before dedicating funding and manpower to the project. In response, CSX confirmed that the line would remain in operation for the foreseeable future, he said, and also contributed about $341,000, or 5 percent of the estimated $6.8 million project. The city spent $2.4 million and a $4 million state grant accounted for the rest of the cost.
“We have been working to provide an efficient overpass on the west side of town, and we had one on the east side for quite a while and with all of the growth on the west side we wanted an efficient way for people to get to the interstate,” Denton said. “We built a fire station right by the overpass so we could have first responders there to be able to get back and forth to the west side without trains being a problem. We took all of that into account, and it was our understanding from the railroad that they were going to keep using that.”
He said he is surprised to hear about the temporary shutdown but believes that the new overpass will benefit the area when the railroad reopens it.
“Now it looks strange, I admit, for them to do that after we finished the new overpass, but we had no knowledge of that,” Denton said. “But if it’s only temporary, in the long run it will still be a good project.”
Contact reporter Will Buss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2526.