LA GRANGE, Ky. (February 2004) Merchants here fear future
economic growth along Main Street is on the verge of becoming threatened.
Circumstances are about to change for those who either live or work
near the CSX railroad tracks, changes that may also affect the entire
CSX officials recently announced that upgrades are necessary to ensure
proper safety measures along the tracks that bisect Main Street in
downtown La Grange. CSX wants to replace the existing railroad tracks,
in light of a recently passed regulation from the Federal Railroad
Association that targets safety features.
Rick Garlock of the toy store Treasured Child is spearheading efforts
between La Grange merchants, city council members, railroad officials,
planning and zoning officials, and Oldham County citizens to decide
on an option that is favorable to everyone. Im coordinating
a lot of input from a lot of different people, Garlock said.
The railroad gave us three diverse options as a starting point,
said Garlock. Those involved were given the option to combine, mix
or match any of the elements presented in the three plans. This creates
an infinite number of plans, said Garlock.
Altered traffic flow and parking situations are key factors that business
owners are taking into account. The first plan suggests keeping the
tracks existing alignment, retaining diagonal parking on the
North side of Main Street and eliminating all parking on the South
side of Main Street.
The second plan suggests centering the tracks, which are currently
aligned closer to the South side of Main Street. Parallel parking
would be available on both sides of the street. Three feet of sidewalk
space would need to be removed from the North side of the street.
For the third plan, a pedestrian plaza would be created on the eastern
block of Main Street. There would be no traffic flow or parking in
this area, with the possibility of CSX property east of La Grange
being converted into a parking lot. Sidewalk cafes, trees and bushes
could be added to this plan for beautification.
But as Bill Lammlein of WJL Designs pointed out, these are factors
the citizens would be responsible for implementing. CSX is only
responsible for the track, he said.
David Hall, a spokesman for CSX, said as long as the railroad requirements
are met, We dont have a preference (as to which
plan is used). The proposals are concepts of possible solutions, but
Hall said it is up to the community to decide the outcome.
Oldham County citizens and merchants will assemble options that will
include costs for the project. Garlock said he would take these ideas
to the city council, which in turn will balance the plans and take
economic possibilities into account.
Architectural firm Scott, Klausing & Co. has developed graphics
for the proposed track renovation plans. This company was chosen because
we are a local firm and have graphic capabilities in house,
said Fran Scott, who is handling the CSX project. CSX wanted to employ
an architectural firm, he said, to provide illustrations so that all
concerned parties could visibly understand the proposed ideas.
Having once been located on Main Street, CSX saw Scott, Klausing &
Co. as a natural choice, said Garlock. Scott said the
plans are not his firms conclusions. CSX defined the options,
and Scotts firm portrayed them through graphics.
Oldham County Mayor Elsie Carter said both sides are trying to cooperate
with one another in an effort to keep citizens safe. She thinks it
is ultimately up to Oldham County citizens and merchants to decide
upon a workable plan. Many voices make for better decisions,
she said. Effects are not only immediate but will be felt 25 years
down the road, Carter said.
The railroad has been an integral part of Oldham County history since
the first train puffed its way into the county in late 1850. A year
later, the Lexington & Frankfort line took over the Oldham County
lines, connecting Lexington to Louisville. This line consolidated
with the Louisville & Frankfort line, becoming known as the Louisville,
Cincinnati & Lexington Railroad Co., or The Short Line.
In 1881, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Co. (L&N) purchased
the lines and operated the tracks until 1974. CSX then took over the
It is this unique history and aesthetic appeal of the town that Lammlein
feels is in peril of being altered. The railroad and Main Street have
shared a distinct connection over the years, one that has become imbedded
in the minds of citizens and visitors alike. Lammlein, who sits on
the newly created La Grange Main Street Program, said none of the
plans proposed so far are acceptable to me.
Lammleins major concern over this project revolves around the
loss of sidewalk and parking space. Most of the traffic along
Main Street is pedestrian traffic, he said.
With trains, vehicles and pedestrians all sharing the same space,
concerns have been raised over the safety of pedestrians. Lammlein
said that if sidewalks are eliminated, as suggested by the second
plan, there is an increased danger of pedestrians being run over.
Hall said the proposed suggestions by CSX were intended to create
a 12-foot corridor to separate the track from the road, with curbing
on each side of the railroad to prevent vehicles from driving on the
Were at a point where the crossing needs to be renovated,
said Hall. He called this project a good opportunity for the city
to address the FRA safety regulation. While there is no time limit
as to when a plan must be chosen, Hall did say CSX has a target date
The line running through Oldham County is considered a Class 1 track.
Improvements would upgrade the tracks from Class 1 to Class 2 tracks.
Many see this factor as a drawback because the speed at which trains
move through town would increase from 10 mph to 20 mph.
Even at 10 mph, my windows shake, said Sue Kelley of Sues
Emporium. Many in the community are concerned about vibration damage
to the historical structures on Main Street and wonder if the number
of trains will increase after renovation. Hall said this line is running
at capacity, so any changes will be incremental in regard to capacity.
Kelley said that without parking on Main Street, Were
in big trouble. There is no good place for a parking lot.
by Don Ward
on Main Street, La Grange, Ky.
Kelley has had a business on Main Street for two years, and said
there are UPS trucks making deliveries every day to the shops. Many
of the antique stores sell larger pieces of furniture, which clientele
are not going to carry two to three blocks to their vehicles if purchased,
If parking options are eliminated, Kelley feels trains will move more
quickly through town. Although parking spaces may disappear, Were
still here, she said of the stores on Main Street.
Following upon the heels of a good Christmas shopping season, many
business owners like Kelley are foreseeing altered traffic flow and
lack of parking as major long-term concerns to commercial visibility.
In the short time shes been on Main Street, Kelley said she
has already seen a difference in growth potential along Main Street.
Donna Kaelin, owner of Kaelins Trackside Restaurant, which is
located west of the main crossing, said she didnt think her
business would be as affected by the track renovation. She is, however,
concerned over the issue of speed. She pointed out that many people
think they can beat a train when crossing the tracks. If a train moves
at a slower speed, these vehicles have time to get out of the way.
If not, the faster speed may contribute to more accidents.
There were three to four accidents within the last year along the
tracks. While there were no fatalities, safety measures need to be
ensured, CSX officials say. With 28-30 trains passing through town
within a 24-hour period, there is a potential danger for more accidents,
Crossing guards will be installed at all intersections to assist with
pedestrian safety, said city council member Kevin Woosley. Ideally,
a section will be dedicated strictly for the trains to prevent vehicles
from driving on the tracks.
Crossing guards will be the biggest cost, said Woosley. While there
are no set figures yet, CSX will not fund the entire project. The
state will pick up some of the cost, he said.
To defray the citys cost for this renovation project, some crossings
at lesser-used intersections may be closed, said Woosley. If a crossing
is closed, two free crossing gates will be given to the city. Public
safety remains the key point, Woosley said.