DANVILLE – Trains blocking railroad tracks in Vermilion County has long been a problem.

Catlin Village Clerk Shelley McLain said for many years now Catlin village officials have talked about ways to deal with it.

She said a train can block a railroad crossing for 15 to 45 minutes and that causes life and safety issues for their emergency personnel to reach the south side of Catlin. She said the blocked crossings also affect school children on buses.

McClain said they’ve ticketed the trains, but the fines often get thrown out and nothing happens.

In 2008, former Mayor Fred Rinehart said the village issued tickets to trains for sitting too long on the tracks because of something other than a mechanical failure. And the village was actually paid for a couple of them.

But Rinehart then told the Commercial-News he found out the Illinois Supreme Court issued a decision involving Union Pacific that indicated train companies cannot be fined because federal law trumps the village actions.

The crossings that get blocked are on Lyons, Paris and Sandusky roads.

McLain said Mayor Butch Schmink and Catlin’s regular engineering firm of Fehr Graham have discussed ideas.

“It’s not an easy answer,” McLain said.

She said on Paris Street they don’t want to jeopardize businesses, including Casey’s and Corner Lounge bar.

Village officials know it would cost millions of dollars for an overpass, which McLain said the village would bond out, but she also added they’ve talked to state Rep. Mike Marron, R-Fithian, about possible state funding.

Catlin officials now are asking Danville Area Transportation Study for help in determining the feasibility of building an overpass over a crossing and how it would impact businesses.

The Danville Area Transportation Study’s Technical Committee on Thursday approved $25,000 for the Catlin Transportation Study Project, which is 100 percent of the estimated $20,000 total cost. The DATS Policy Committee will give final approval on the transfer of funds next week.

The study could be completed by the end of the year, or go into next year.

Committee members asked about a request for proposals and public hearing regarding the study and commented how it was nice to see a Vermilion County project instead of only Danville projects use the funding.

Danville Senior Planner Tyson Terhune said there were funds remaining in the DATS metropolitan planning organization’s adopted fiscal year 2019 Unified Planning Work Program because of lost personnel.

The committee also approved the transfer of additional money, $85,000 from the UPWP personnel line item to the professional services line item, for continued sewer televising and the Danville roadway drainage inventory and programming project. This is an extension of the existing project, Terhune said.

The Technical Committee also heard about a bid opening by the state today on the Kickapoo Rail Trail.

This Vermilion County section is for construction of the pedestrian trail on the abandoned CSX Railroad alignment from Grays Siding Road to the Vermilion County Fairgrounds. This part of the trail includes the railroad trestle. Contract specifications say it’s a 150-working-day project.

The trail will be a multi-use trail open to the public for hiking, biking and other non-motorized use and will stretch 24.5 miles from Kickapoo State Park to Urbana.

Phase One construction of the Vermilion County portion has been on a 2-mile section extending from west of Oakwood Avenue in Oakwood to Gray’s Siding Road in the area of Dunbar Bucktown Tree Farm. The first 6.7 miles of the trail were completed in 2017 from Urbana to St. Joseph.

The DATS Technical Committee on Thursday also approved an amendment for Illinois Department of Transportation bridge painting on various Interstate 74 structures as part of the fiscal year 2019-2020 Transportation Improvement Program.

In other business, the committee voted to have Chairman Adrian Greenwell continue serving as committee chairman and newly hired Danville Planning and Grants Manager Logan Cronk serve as vice chairman. Cronk will be the new city voting member on the committee replacing former city employee Chris Milliken.

The committee also heard from Terhune about him participating in a freight study workshop and getting up-to-date on the City of Danville's freight study.

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