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Getting on track

City, federal, CSX officials
continue negotiations
on future track redesign

Murner takes lead in guiding fate
of Main Street in La Grange

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

LA GRANGE, Ky. (November 2004) – For the past year, La Grange residents and merchants alike have considered the highs and lows that will accompany a railroad renovation plan for their city. As CSX officials near the designated time to renovate the railroad tracks running through the downtown shopping district, options are still on the table.

Duane Murner
Duane Murner

A merchants committee had been considering three main options for their town, but even the ideas set forth in these plans will continue to evolve. CSX is the company that owns the tracks and they had granted the committee extra time to draft a plan by deferring work from the projected stating date of spring 2004 until 2005.
The idea is to increase safety measures on the outdated tracks in order to retain the quiet zone status the city now holds. A pending FRA regulation regarding train-whistle blowing threatens the quiet zone status by stipulating that horns must be sounded at all unguarded crossings. The major crux of the project will be separating the roadway from the tracks on Main Street in a two-clock section with curbing and guttering, and replacing two-way streets with one-way streets and a pedestrian plaza.
Rick Garlock was spearheading this project among local merchants but has turned the reins over to District 5 Magistrate Duane Murner. “I stepped back in August,” said Garlock, because he was entering the busiest time of the year for his business, The Treasured Child.
Murner said Garlock resigned because he had done all he could for the project. Even though “It’s not a continuing role,” said Murner, Garlock will “continue to be supportive.”
Murner said a negotiating committee was recently formed with Lucy Ricketts chosen as chairperson. The committee includes Murner and magistrate Beverly McCombs, Main Street property owners and individuals interested in La Grange’s future.
A subcommittee has been formed from the negotiating committee consisting of Murner, Ricketts and La Grange Mayor Elsie Carter. The three will meet with CSX officials on Dec. 7, a meeting closed to the public. At that time, CSX officials will present their initial response to the issues that were presented to them at a meeting on Oct. 25.
Ricketts said the subcommittee will “be the conduit for La Grange to speak with CSX. We have presented our goals and what we need to make this a reality.” Applying for the quiet zone status provides the committee more time to meet guidelines. CSX can renovate while we still plan, said Ricketts.
We want to make this transition as easy as possible, Ricketts said. Safety issues top the list of concerns, which includes traffic flow, parking, keeping the downtown area viable and maintaining the historic district charm and character.
“Work has to go forward; a plan needs to be in place,” said Murner. Traffic flow and parking are the two main concerns of merchants located on the downtown stretch. “By far, the greatest expense will be the replacement of lost parking,” said Murner.
The merchant committee formerly led by Garlock, had proposed one-way traffic sections on Main, Second, Walnut and Cedar streets. This plan would eliminate parking in a two-block area on the south side of Main, while adding more parking on Walnut.
An earlier version of this plan called for a barrier to be constructed at Main and Cedar near the railroad crossing. This would eliminate a straight connection between Main and Jericho Road, the later road leading east out of La Grange. This would force subdivision residents, factory employees and delivery truck drivers to find an alternate route to the downtown area.
A current traffic study recommends not closing Jericho Road, said Murner. It provides a viable plan for leaving this roadway open, he said, and converting it to a one-way street. A main debate has been over which crossings to close and which to gate.
In June, La Grange City Council unanimously passed a resolution approving the closure of train crossings within the city. The three targeted crossings were West Main Street near the angled end of Kentucky Avenue (Sixth Street), West Main and Third Streets, and East Main (Jericho Road) and Cedar Avenue. The resolution was passed to maintain a quiet zone in the city.
There will be two definite closings on Third and Sixth Streets, said Ricketts. A possible third closing may arise. These closings do not necessarily need to be three crossings in La Grange; they can be anywhere on the line, said Ricketts. In regard to any new crossings being opened up, Ricketts said, “We cannot open a new one, unless we close three.”
A traffic study was begun in July and is expected to be completed in December. CDP Engineering is conducting the study, which is a joint venture financed by the county and city. If a plan is agreed upon soon, state funding can be earmarked for this project. A resolution from the city is needed, mentioning specific crossings officials are willing to close.
While it may still be some time before the project is completed, Ricketts said that for now, the subcommittee’s purpose is to “get things firmed up and in writing.” There are many options to consider.
Ricketts said she felt a deep interest in this project after having lived in La Grange all her life.
ments of many residents, Ricketts said, “The trains are a part of me. Someone needed to step up and be active. I felt this was my place. All council members feel as I do.”

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