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Trains to start operating on Highway 2 tracks for the first time in 17 years

Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 8:04 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - If you live, work, or travel near Highway 2 in south Lincoln, you’ll start seeing train traffic in January. The Omaha Public Power District and BNSF have struck a new deal.

It will send a train on a round trip through Lincoln to drop off coal at the power plant in Nebraska City six days a week.

"So you'll start hearing and seeing trains in that area again," said Roger Figard, executive director for the Railroad Transportation Safety District.

Trains haven’t run on this track, which crosses ten major roads, in 17 years. Those include:

  • Pioneers Boulevard
  • 14th Street
  • 27th Street
  • 40th Street
  • 48th Street
  • 56th & Old Cheney
  • Pine Lake Road
  • 70th Street
  • 84th Street
  • Yankee Hill Road

Deb Christ, whose business Home Innovations Spa, is just feet from the track said she was surprised to hear the news.

"I remember when they used to run, if they came by during business hours it was so loud you could be on the phone and not hear anything," Christ said.

She said she's not too worried about the noise, but is more concerned about the traffic.

“I think it really depends on the hours. That’s key here,” she said.

The train would be a mile and a half long and ideally travel at 30 miles per hour, Figard said. This means it would block an intersection for about three minutes. It could also block multiple intersections at a time.

“A lot will depend on the time of day that the trains come through,” Figard said. “BNSF, OPPD, RTSD and the City are visiting with the railroad about what times are best for the train to go through to have the least impact.”

Christ isn’t the only one worried.

Heinz Westphal, owner of The Garage Bar & Grill near 48th Street and Highway 2, said he’s glad the coal is getting to where it needs to go, but the traffic needs to be taken into consideration.

"I hope it doesn't impact the businesses south of the tracks," Westphal said. "Concern is people taking alternate routes, or it being an inconvenience for people to pickup take out or stop in to eat."

Seth Ramirez, who lives near 12th Street and Highway 2, said the same thing.

"If the trains were to run at like 4:30 in the afternoon that would upset a lot of neighbors," Ramirez said. "I can imagine the traffic backed up in the neighborhood."

Christ, Westphal, and Ramirez all said the best times would be early morning or late evening.

Figard said the schedule isn’t nailed down yet. Although, they’re also working with traffic engineering to look into how signals could be changed to better accommodate the traffic changes. The RTSD is also looking into tools that could be used to warn drivers a train is coming up, Figard said.

Another main priority will be surveying the railroad crossing signs and safety measures.

"We want the traveling public and pedestrians to know there are trains," Figard said. "We want them to be careful."

Figard said nearly every crossing already has lights and gates that close, but there is one at 84th Street that only has a yield sign. That will be examined to see if changes are necessary.

Figard is encouraging the community to not only look at the negatives that can come with train traffic.

“One of the things that people forget and we shouldn’t is that BNSF is an important part of our community and transportation system,” Figard said. “There are numerous people who live in Lincoln and Lancaster County who work at the railroad, at BNSF. New contracts like this help maintain the economic growth of the area - making sure employees can continue employment.”

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