Mackenzi Klemann and Andrew Maciejewski, Wabash Plain Dealer
Traffic was blocked for hours late Wednesday morning after a series of trains stopped unexpectedly at the intersections in downtown Wabash.
There were no reported maintenance or flooding issues, but a high volume of trains passing through the area where the north-south and east-west lines meet in Wabash reportedly caused one or two trains to stop for a prolonged period of time, blocking intersections east of Bond Street.
“There’s a connection track (near Wabash) where trains going on one line can shift over to the other line, but in order to do so … one train has to stop to let the other train pass through,” said Norfolk Southern spokesperson Jon Glass. He estimated about eight trains met at the Wabash connection point Wednesday morning.
It is not uncommon for trains to get stuck and block the only viable intersections cutting through Wabash, with the sole underpass running through City Park. This route is inaccessible for truck traffic.
David Johnson, a semi-truck driver for Utterback Farms, said he waited more than an hour Wednesday morning while the Cass Street intersection was blocked.
“I don’t wanna get somewhere, get stuck and be a part of the problem,” he said. “I’ve seen almost two accidents right here of people trying to get around and stuff, but I can only sit here for so long.”
Preliminary plans are in the works to construct a new overpass on the far east end of the city at East Street. This route would be utilized primarily by emergency and local traffic, but Mayor Scott Long envisions that trucks may be redirected to the overpass in emergency situations.
The project is currently expected to cost $10 million, twenty percent of which will be financed by the City. Long said he is waiting to hear back from the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) regarding grants for the project. If approved, construction will begin in 2022.
Long chose the East Street location because it would have the least impact on area businesses.
He said he would have to close Hill Street in order to build an overpass along Cass Street, and in doing so would restrict access to the public library and St. Bernard’s. A similar situation would develop if an overpass were built along Miami or Wabash streets, Long said.
“There’s just too many important buildings that need access – the courthouse, library, churches, schools,” he said. “It’s not feasible to do it on one of the streets that are closer to the downtown area.”