Part 1: Closure – Railroad Crossing – Indian Hill Rd

Updated July 23, 2022
 
Correspondence from Groups Outside Brown County working to open up the Tecumseh Trail – (KHTA – Knobstone Hiking Trail Association). Includes coverage by Backpacker Magazines – circulation of 350,000. 

 
Tecumseh and Knobstone Trails.  The Tecumseh Trail is closed from State Road 45 to the parking area south of Beanblossom Creek.  See the Tecumseh Trail Guide for shuttle options around this closure. 
 
Brown County  Agreements
 

NEW  Mar 10, 2022: Copy of the original correspondence from the Rail Road to the County. No action was taken at the time. Indiana Hill Road closing letter 5-20-2019

    • Federal statutes do not apply to this crossing closure, since it does not affect RR operations one way or another.  INRD had only Indiana statutes to use as guidance.

    • The 2019 Petition: Items 1-9 are given directly as listed in IC 6-8-7.7-3.1 (b), i.e.  The following is the entirety – verbatim – of that portion of Indiana Code — IC 6-8-7.7-3.1 (b) — cited by INRD in the 2019 petition:

3.2 Indiana statutes bearing on opening crossings§ IC 8-6-7.7-3.1 is replete with references to conditions for both opening or closing crossings. Duty of department to specify criteria; considerations in applying criteria.

    • Sec. 3.1. (a) The Indiana department of transportation shall adopt rules under IC 4-22-2 specifying criteria for:
      • (1) the department to use in determining whether to open a new public railroad grade crossing; and
      • (2) the department or a unit (as defined in IC 36-1-2-23) to use in determining whether to abolish a public railroad grade crossing.
      • (b) In applying criteria required by subsection (a) to determine whether to open a new public railroad grade crossing, deny a public grade crossing closure, or abolish a public railroad grade crossing, the department or unit shall consider the following:
      • (1) Timetable speed of passenger trains operated through the crossing.
      • (2) Distance to an alternate crossing.
      • (3) Accident history of the crossing for the five (5) years preceding the department’s or the unit’s consideration.
      • (4) Amount of vehicular traffic and posted speed limits for the crossing.
      • (5) Amount of freight trains and their timetable speeds operated through the crossing.
      • (6) Type of warning device present at the crossing, if any.
      • (7) Alignment of the roadway and the railroad, and the angle of the intersection of an alignment at the crossing.
      • (8) Use of the crossing by:
        •       (A) trucks carrying hazardous materials;
        •       (B) vehicles carrying passengers for hire;
        •       (C) school buses; and
        •       (D) emergency vehicles.
        • (9) Other appropriate criteria as determined by the department.
      • As added by P.L.81-1996, SEC.6.
    • Nowhere did INRD state that it (INRD) found the crossing had issues with the listed criteria. Instead, it invited the BC Commissioners to decide that there were issues with the crossing, using the threat of litigation if this was not done. The RR never stated that they had performed a technical assessment showing problems with the crossing. The decision to close IHR was made entirely by the BC Commissioners, based entirely on a “threat” of litigation.  No substance to the threat.
    • Attachment Indiana Hill Rd Crossing Closure and Settlement Agreement (Note the county attorneys (Lauren Box, Jacob German from Barnes and Thornburg) are refenced in this document that was signed on “April 9, 2020”. )  This implies that “discussions” occurred several weeks or months prior to the decision by the commissioners to sign the resolution.
      •  Indiana Railroad “Now, Therefore, in consideration of the costs to be borne, including the [1] expense of holding a public hearing and litigation, in addition to the [2] potential availablility of public funds, the Parties seek to amicably agree to close the crossing and to settle this matter and all related claims, …” IndianaHillRoad-Closure-and-Settlement-Agreement_21April2020

Jan 28, 2022. The Settlement Agreement references that the Indiana Railroad Company petitioned the County to close the crossing and referenced the requirement for a “public  hearing.”  Did this public hearing require the posting of a legal notice in the Brown County Democrat?  

The Settlement Agreement also references support for the County to apply to INDOT for railroad crossing closure  funds. Mike Magnor submitted an application for the Crossing-Closure grant and approval of $10,000.  

Interesting language in Grant #21-GCF-LPA-02_Executed Agreement (Brown County- Crossing Closure) The funds received by the Grantee pursuant to this Grant Agreement shall be used only to implement the Project or provide the services in conformance with this Grant Agreement and for no other purpose.

    • Page 2  Item 3 A: The Grantee shall implement and complete the Project in accordance with Exhibit A and with the plans and specifications contained in its grant application, which is on file with the State and is incorporated by reference. Modification of the Project shall require prior written approval of the State.
    • Item 3 C: Should the Grantee re-open the RR crossing in the future (no statute of limitations implied!), Grantee repays all Grant funds to INDOT and covers all costs of re-opening.
    • …..  There are lots of performance conditions on these Grants.

The Indiana State Legislature established the Railroad Grade Crossing Fund (RRGCF) to channel funding for railroad crossing safety improvement projects throughout Indiana.

See Indiana Code 8-6-7.7 ,  IC 8-6-7.7-6.1Railroad grade crossing fund

Railroad Crossing Closure Guidelines FY22 Railroad Grade Crossing Fund, Guidelines for Communities Considering a Rail Crossing Closure  Crossing-Closure-Guidelines-FY22

Indiana RailRoad Petition for Closures?

    • References:  IC 8-6-7.7-3.2, i.e.:IC 8-6-7.7-3.2  Petition for closure; public hearing; determination and findings by unit
    • item  “1C. …INDOT must schedule an appeal on the denial of the petition as set forth in IC 4-21.5 within sixty (60) days after the petition is denied …”, the question arises about what to do if a Petition is neither denied or accepted by the Parties (in the case at hand this would be Brown County and INRD)?
    • Sec. 3.2. (a) A person may petition a unit (as defined in IC 36-1-2-23) under whose jurisdiction a public railroad crossing lies for the closure of a public railroad crossing. The unit shall conduct a public hearing on the petition not more than sixty (60) days after the date on which the unit receives the petition.
      • The 60 day requirment does not appear to be a suggestion, to be set aside at will by either BC or INRD. The INRD Petition with BC, filed on May 20, 2019, as described in Item 1 of the Crossing Closure & Settlement Agreement RECITALS: “On May 20, 2019, INRD petitioned the Board to close a railroad grade crossing located at Indian Hill Road, DOT #292 193F, in Brown County, Indiana, pursuant to Indiana Code section 8-6-6.7-3.2 …”, elicited no response by BC which satisfied the requirements stated in IC 8-6-7..7-3.2 above — a hearing was NOT held within 60 days.

Railroad Grade Crossing Fund The Indiana State Legislature established the Railroad Grade Crossing Fund (RRGCF) per Indiana Code 8-6-7.7-6.1; to provide funding for railroad crossing safety improvement projects throughout Indiana. According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the most effective way to improve railroad crossing safety is to close crossings. With this in mind, INDOT encourages the use of RRGCF monies to be used as an incentive to help communities that choose to permanently close crossings … and  …  A rail crossing closure is considered the strongest tool for enhancing safety as it eliminates the intersection where rail – highway accidents may occur. Indiana Code 8-6-7.7-6.1 outlines the types of projects that are eligible for Railroad Grade Crossing Funds. Railroad crossing closures would fall under the category of “Other safety improvements” and are eligible project types to receive funds from the Railroad Grade Crossing Fund.

  •  

LEGEND – “BCD” – Brown County Democrat;
“BCM” – Brown County Matters – Facebook Page

Oct 14, 2021. BCD. Facing a new challenge: Route changes due to railroad crossing closure, By Abigail Youmans  

  • Brown and Morgan counties have hosted runners in a variety of distance events during the Tecumseh Trail Challenge every year since 2003.
  • The trail has been a destination for runners from dozens of states who participate in the DINO (Do INdiana off-road) race, with participation growing to more than 700 in 2010. But now the point-to-point race route has been turned into a loop due to the Indian Hill Road railroad crossing closure.

  • As of Oct. 8, DINO and the Indiana Trail Running Association had no progress with creating a pedestrian railroad crossing, forcing them to make the Tecumseh Trail Challenge a looped route. DINO Director Brian Holzhausen said it was a “difficult decision.”

July 6, 2021. The Republic. Railroad closure blocks Tecumseh Trail; groups lobby for crossing, By    

July 1, 2021. Closed ahead: Tecumseh Trail users lobbying for pedestrian crossing at Indian Hill By   Suzannah Couch

Mar 25, 2021.  BCM Statement – Commissioner Pittman

  • Clarification on the Indian Hill Railroad crossing closure. “The Indian Hill crossing closure was completely beyond the Commissioners ability to stop. I learned that had we not agreed with the Indiana Railroad to the closure they would have gone to INDOT and they could/would remove the entire road from our inventory and thereby any funding would be lost. This has taken place numerous times in the recent past as other crossings have been closed all over the State. I truly apologize to those affected by the closure. Certainly not trying to pass the “Buck” but if you’re angry please complain to the Railroad and your Indiana elected Representative and Senators.” – Sincerely, Jerry Lee Pittman, Commissioner
 
March 10, 2021. Tecumseh Trail race fans: There is an imminent threat to our Point-to-Point Tecumseh 50k & marathon, and for anyone who wants to run or hike the Tecumseh.
(Ref: FB  DINO Trail Running is at Tecumseh Trail
    • This spot is right at the `halfway of the traditional Tecumseh Trail Marathon distance.

Feb 12, 2021. BCM Access after heavy snow, Jennifer Ruff

2020

July 21, 2020. BCM Kevin Fleming – Proposing an alternative route

July 14, 2020Indian Hill Road residents question railroad closing. 

June 28, 2020. BCM Jennifer Ruff.  INDIAN HILL ROAD – Update (Sort of) Alright ya’ll – you’re making me feel like I own this place!! Nobody drives down my road anymore!! Get down here and enjoy this beautiful spot!! (Remember – you can only access it from the south side of Indian Hill and it’s narrow with lots of curves, so drive slow and careful.)

June 28, 2020. BCM. Tim J. Clark Minutes – May 6 Commissioner Meeting

June 23, 2020. BCM Paul Nelson. A bit of light on a dark situation After getting into a rather heated discussion over the Indian Hill road closing, I have come to learn that that road will still be available for pedestrian traffic as the road easement is part of the Tecumseh trail.

June 16, 2020 – BCM. Jennifer Ruff – … Brown County, I’m super disappointed in you. The railroad crossing on Indian Hill Road is now closed. I’m glad you made a deal to get $35,000 from the state so you could put up these horrible road blocks.

June 11, 2020,   BCM Jennifer Ruff  Need advice PLEASE!!!  I live in a location in Brown County that is pretty remote — except that it is only about thirty seconds off of 45. I have to drive over a strange slab bridge over a creek and up over a railroad crossing to get to 45.

June 10, 2020. BCD. COUNTY NEWS: Railroad crossing closing; 

    • A  railroad crossing that has been identified as unsafe and dangerous by the Indiana Rail Road Company on Indian Hill Road is set to be closed permanently

    • The crossing is near the end of Indian Hill Road that connects to State Road 45.

    • A date for when the closing will happen has not been set.

    • At the April 15 Brown County Commissioners meeting, Brown County Highway Superintendent Mike Magner said that Indiana Rail Road had been discussing the crossing and what to do with it for about two years. They have now formally requested that the county close the crossing.

    • The resolution to close the crossing due to safety was approved unanimously at the May 6 commissioners meeting. The railroad company will now begin its process to close the crossing and the county can apply for state grants to do improvements to the road since it’s becoming a dead end on the south end. The state will also give the county around $35,000 in mitigation money to do the road improvements, Magner said.

May 6, 2020 Minutes – IVBCI Commissioner Meeting – RR Crossing Closure – Indiana Hill Rd

    • Attachment Indiana Hill Rd Crossing Closure and Settlement Agreement (Note the county attorneys (Lauren Box, Jacob German from Barnes and Thornburg) are refenced in this document that was signed on “April 9, 2020”. )  This implies that “discussions” occurred several weeks or months prior to the decision by the commissioners to sign the resolution. (April 9, 2020)

Jan 3, 2020. IBJ  Morton Marcus: Knobstone could be Indiana’s trail to tomorrow

  • There is a rehabilitated focus by the Governor’s Office on tourism in Indiana. Yes, the stepchild of economic development is being touted as a priority.
  • Fortunately, there is a 23-year-old plan to boost OR (Outdoor Recreationj) tourism in Indiana. It involves a premier hiking trail from Deam Lake in Clark County to Martinsville in Morgan County, a trail of roughly 150 miles, winding through six additional counties (Scott, Washington, Jackson, Brown, Lawrence and Monroe). This is the Knobstone Trail, which already exists with the exception of a few unconnected sections. With pending rail-trail connections, the Knobstone will link the Indianapolis metro area with that of Louisville.

 

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