completed on CSX train tracks
through downtown La Grange
suffer temporarily but glad it's done
Helen E. McKinney
LA GRANGE, Ky. Karen Eldridge says a weight
has been lifted off her shoulders. For many merchants along Main Street
in La Grange, Ky., the frustrations associated with a two-year-long
CSX Railroad project have ended.
by Don Ward
Railroad employees spent much
of November working on train track
improvements through downtown
La Grange, Ky. The much-anticipated
work is designed to meet new federal
transportation requirements and make auto
traffic safer in the town's business district.
Im glad to finally have it done, said
Eldridge. She hopes to soon have a nice, smooth paved road in front
of her business, Karens Book Barn and Java Stop, on the corner
of Main Street.
From Nov. 5-21, the railroad tracks along Main Street were given a facelift.
CSX workers replaced a dilapidated section of track running down the
center of La Granges historic business district, from Second Street
to Walnut Street.
Workers dug down five feet and replaced gravel and track, and laid all
new ties. Asphalt was poured to smooth out and meet the level of the
current asphalt and extend the sidewalk. Conduit was laid to run wires
for gates that will be installed at Main Street and Hwy. 53.
Many business owners like Eldridge were concerned over the loss of business
they might experience while Main Street was closed for track renovations.
Eldridge said business was slower to a certain extent. But
she said another factor to consider was the cold, rainy weather. This
may have combined with the confusion of where to park while shopping
along Main Street.
The restaurants struggled more, said Eldridge, a board member
for Discover Downtown La Grange and who also represents the La Grange
Business Association. She believes customers did not want to fight for
a space to park for lunch but rather chose other restaurants to patronize.
Norma Jean Burley, owner of Norma Jeans Trackside Restaurant at
119 W. Main St., said the project made things very difficult.
This was especially true for older customers who had trouble seeing
how to cross the street in the dark to get to their cars.
We had to close early three nights, said Burley. She said
many customers who were unsure whether Main Street was open may not
have taken the chance to come out, accounting for a lower number of
restaurant patrons. Although Burley had signs explaining hours of operation
during the track closings, it was still a frustrating experience for
Jean Kaelin, co-owner of Friends and Fiber Inc., said there was no doubt
that the construction hurt her business, even though it was something
that was desperately needed. Her business sits in the middle
of the historic district at 106 E. Main St.
Patrons who were scheduled for knitting classes still came in support
of her business and didnt shy away because of a lack of parking,
she said. Those who frequently come to town are here to stay, said Kaelin.
Kaelin is glad the work was completed before Thanksgiving. The
railroad did a good job and was out faster than I thought they would
be, she said.
Trish Garlock, whose business, The Treasured Child, sits across the
tracks from Friends and Fiber Inc., praised CSX workers saying, They
really worked hard.
Anticipating a decrease of customers during this project time, Garlock
sent out a catalogue before work began on the tracks. I was already
driving business this way, she said.
As with other business merchants along Main Street, Garlock also had
customer appreciation sales events. The merchants persevered, but it
was difficult for them, she said. It is a hard time of the year
for retailers to lose all parking and drive-by traffic. There is a world
of things to be done to improve the whole ambiance of the street, but
not at this point before Christmas.
The next step is to acquire funding for new crossing gates at Main Street
and Hwy. 53, said Eldridge. The city applied for a T-21 grant last year
in the amount of $875,000, but La Grange did not receive the money.
Mayor Elsie Carter said this was due to a letter of public opposition.
The project had received a favorable review, said Carter, but was unable
to garner any grant monies due to the one complaint. Carter and city
grant writer Darlene Rusnak have begun revising the grant and plan to
lower the amount requested because not as many amenities are needed
now, said Carter.
This money would be used to cover drainage, sidewalk improvements, benches,
signs and trees.
The biggest portion of the grant is for the new crossing, said Eldridge.
The Federal Railroad Administration gave the city seven years to complete
One stipulation to the project is that a quiet zone must also be maintained.
The FRA mandated the outline for the quiet zone, which means that the
approximately 30 trains that travel through La Grange each day would
not have to sound their horns while passing through.
Back to December 2006