By Carson Gerber
PERU — Peru officials are asking residents to start reporting train blockages in an effort to land a federal grant to fix the ongoing issue in which miles-long trains block every crossing in the city.
Interim Peru Mayor Patricia Russell said that for years, Norfolk Southern trains have blocked crossings throughout the city, leading to traffic backups and long detours for residents.
Since the labor shortage, the problem has become progressively worse, she said. Now, trains are sometimes 3 miles long because the railroad doesn’t have enough workers to break up the cars. That sometimes leads to all seven crossings in the city being blocked.
“I understand why they can’t do it,” Russell said. “It just makes it really difficult for us.”
She said that forces drivers to head to North Broadway, which has the only railroad underpass in the city. However, during heavy rain events, the underpass floods, which cuts off all access to drivers.
Russell said it also blocks access for students
trying to get to school, and she’s received reports of kids climbing under or over the trains to get around them.
That led city officials to begin applying for a grant through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration to pay for a feasibility study looking at how best to solve the problem.
Russell said the grant application requires statistical data that proves there are prolonged blockages at railroad crossing, so the city is asking residents to report the blockages on an official government incident reporting website.
If the city receives money from the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program (CRISI), it would initially fund a feasibility study. The study would determine if the city should build a new overpass or walking routes to get around the trains, or potentially reroute railroad tracks.
Once the feasibility study is complete, more funding could be available through the CRISI grant to help pay for construction costs.
The most recent round of funding released in June provided $368 million to help pay for 46 projects in 32 states to modernize the nation’s railroad systems and help reduce congestion.
Russell said the grant application is due in October, so she hopes residents jump on board the effort to report blockages to increase the city’s chances of getting funding.
“We have been in constant contact with Norfolk Southern and this has been an ongoing conversation for the last several months,” she said in a Facebook post. “We are aiming to provide a safe and more dependable way of traveling across Peru.”
This article is made available through Hoosier State Press Association.