A line of vehicles slows its pace, each one bracing for the strong rumble created by the rotting ties of the sinking railroad tracks that cross the street.
Some do their best to drive off to the side in order to avoid the ruts completely. Those unfamiliar with the area or who happen to forget about the crossing’s condition coast through obliviously, risking damage to their vehicles’ wheel alignment and sometimes contributing to the collection of hubcaps often found in the grass to the side.
This familiar scene on 18th Street in Logansport at the railroad crossing just north of Main Street will be ending soon, say city officials, as the company that owns the railroad has pledged to have the intersection smoothed over with new tracks in the next month.
“Those tracks will knock your teeth out,” said Kent Roberts, who lives near the crossing.
When told about the plans to improve the crossing, he said it would provide for quite a change.
“I might have to back up and drive back over them to make sure,” he joked.
The crossing was brought up at a recent Logansport City Council Finance Committee meeting, where council members discussed a road improvement project on 18th Street. Logansport Mayor Ted Franklin said he had received word from the company that owns the railroad that it would be fixing the tracks in the next 30 days.
The line is owned by the Toledo, Peoria and Western Railway, which was acquired by RailAmerica in 1999, which in turn was purchased last year by Genesee & Wyoming Inc.
Dan Williams, superintendent of the Logansport Department of Public Works, said the department continues to get about 20 to 25 complaints a month regarding the tracks. Until the railroad company takes responsibility, all he said he and his staff can do is patch the tracks with asphalt.
This is far from an adequate solution, Williams continued. Asphalt doesn’t adhere well to wood and usually only lasts about one to two weeks.
Logansport resident Sonya Roberts said she’ll often go out of her way to avoid the tracks by going through downtown.
“I actually try to avoid them,” she said. “They used to be fairly smooth.”
Williams said the tracks have likely been in the state they’re in for the last six to eight years.
Angela Gano, who lives near the crossing, thinks it may even be more than that, as she recalls the crossing being in rough shape when she first started driving 14 years ago.
“They need to be fixed,” she said. “I hope they actually do it and that it doesn’t take forever.”
Williams said it’s not uncommon for street department staff to find hubcaps when mowing the grass on the shoulder of 18th Street.
Logansport resident Kasi Elpers said she’s seen hubcaps in the area as well. She said she drives over the tracks every day.
“I’m surprised no one has lost a tire,” she said. “Those things are horrendous. No matter which way you go over them, you have to slow down to almost nothing.”
She said she’s looking forward to a smoother crossing.
“It’s been a long time coming, that’s for sure.”
Williams said he has been keeping in contact and meeting with railroad representatives and a recent email he received from the company stated it was waiting on materials before it could start work.
Once the materials are acquired, Williams said Toledo, Peoria and Western Railway will be putting in new tracks at the crossing. The street department will then do all of the necessary repaving in the area.
“Everything will be on an expedited schedule because we don’t want to inconvenience people any more than we have to, but we do want it done right so we don’t have to ever go back,” he said.
Williams said the project should take about four days and that the public will be notified of the extent of the road closure and detours. He said he expects the improvements to last for the next 25 to 30 years.
Logansport resident Rosalee Hall said she drives through the crossing a couple times a week and that she’s looking forward to the fix.
“They’re bad,” she said. “I wondered why they haven’t fixed them. They’ve been that way for years now. It’d be nice if they fixed them.”
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.