Part 3. Closure RR Xing, Indian Hill Rd: Public Hearings

railroad crossing sign

Updated Aug 10, 2022

Question: Was a public hearing required or just a recommended step by the commissioners before deciding to close the railroad crossing at Indian Hill Road?

Additional Background Information

Aug 10, 2022.  ‘Unintended consequence’: Trail supporters request pedestrian crossing for Indian Hill railroad by Suzannah Couch.

    • For more than 20 years hikers have traveled through Brown County on the Tecumseh Trail, making their way across the Indian Hill Road railroad crossing on their trek down one of the longest hiking trails in the state. … Now hikers take a 5- to 6-mile walking detour around the railroad crossing following its closure two years ago at the request of the Indiana Rail Road.
    • Abbott then said that severing the Tecumseh Trail could have been identified as a compelling reason if the commissioners had held a public hearing before the crossing was closed. Under Indiana Code, a public hearing should be held not more than 60 days after a petition is received to close a railroad crossing.

Aug 3, 2022. Commissioner meeting.  Indiana Hill RR Crossing – Update.  38:10 mark on audio. Legal aspects still in the discussion phase. Commissioner Biddle provided a deed to the county attorney of the crossing and stated that per the deed, the RR owns 150 feet on both sides.  She also stated that she believes (no supporting evidence) that individuals coming within 50′ of the crossing would be committing trespassing on federal property because train right of way is considered federal.  Audio.

Tecumseh Trail – Impact of Railroad Crossing Closure.  The presentation on July 20, 2022, at the Commissioners Meeting by Tony Abbott, President, of Knobstone Hiking Trail Association included information that suggested a public hearing may have been recommended if not required to be held by the Commissioners.

The fact that a public hearing was never considered should be a concern and something to prevent in the future. Information and examples of a public hearing on the closing of a railroad crossing in Starke County are provided below.

Legal Opinion – Brown County Attorney: 

    • “Barnes and Thornburg attorney Veronica Schilb, who represents the county, said last June that because the county and the railroad company came to an agreement on the closing, no public hearing was required before it was closed.” (Ref: Closed ahead: Tecumseh Trail users lobbying for pedestrian crossing at Indian Hill, By  Suzannah Couch, 
    • QUESTION?  What are the supporting statutes that support this opinion?
Starke County – Railroad Crossing – Discussion, Public Hearings, Rejection of the Closure

June 22, 2022. In contrast, Starke County Commissioners Look for Resident Input on Proposed Railroad Crossing Closure,  Anita Goodan, WKVI

    • County Attorney Justin Schramm suggested waiting until the next meeting to discuss it more in order to get more information about why Norfolk Southern has identified this crossing as one to close. Additionally, Schramm advised the commissioners to gather comments from the property owners before making a decision and they agreed. Letters will be sent to the property owners in that area to attend the next meeting on July 5 or send correspondence concerning their opinions on the matter.

July 5, 2022. Starke County Commissioners to Meet Tonight, by Anita Goodan, WKVI

    • During the commissioner’s last meeting, Starke County Highway Superintendent Dan Dipert brought the request from Norfolk Southern officials to the attention of the commissioners stating that the railroad and INDOT would pay the county money to close the crossing, which could cover the cost of the maintenance of those roads, if the commissioners agree to the closure.
    • It was a goal of the commissioners to explore the railroad company’s need to close the crossing, as well as get input from residents in that area about the request.
    • ….  It has been railroad philosophy for years to try and eliminate as many highway crossings as possible. In general he would say that if the residents of the road are against it then they should not agree to have it closed. He advised that if they choose to close the crossing they need to get as much as possible from the railroad and it should be negotiated. Richard Beachamp also spoke up and said he has property on 225 S. He said if they closed the crossing it would make the travel time longer for emergency vehicles to get to their location.

July 7, 2022. Starke County Commissioners Discuss Railroad Closure Proposal by Anita Goodan, WKVI

    • With the majority of the residents voicing opposition to the railroad closure, the commissioners are leaning toward denying the request from Norfolk Southern officials. 

July 19, 2022Denial of the petition: Starke County Commissioners Reject Proposed Railroad Crossing Closure, July 19, 2022. By Mitch Columbe, WKVI

    • After hearing from the public and with majority of the residents voicing opposition to the railroad closure, the commissioners voted to deny the request from Norfolk Southern officials. 
Background Information – Brown County – Indian Hill Rd. RR Crossing Closure

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