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Could rail crossings be eventually separated in Monroe?

MONROE — Almost every city resident has experienced waiting for the train to pass through. But what if the roads didn’t cross the rails?
The city will be applying for federal grant money to study what can be done to separate three of Monroe’s five at-grade crossings.
The city is seeking $250,000 for this effort, and will send its application by the end of the month.
A public survey conducted in August about how the railroad affects residents was to gather data for the grant submission.
In 103 responses to that study, people commonly said that trains running through Monroe causes inconsistent, unpredictable delays on being able to reach appointments in a timely manner, and train noise is disruptive.
But also notable was that “emergency services were also hindered due to blocked routes,” a city summary said, costing time for reaching vital health care services if they’re on the other side of the track, the survey found.
People also said they do not know how risky the chemicals the tank cars are carrying, and some worry about the what-if of a derailment of those cars.
One silver lining is that a small group of the survey respondents saw getting passenger service would present an opportunity. The city had briefly tried before to entice Amtrak to make Monroe a stop on the Empire Builder route.
City leaders have prioritized looking at separating the rail crossings for at least the past year, city Executive Intern Zach Humphreys said.
It’s a separate effort from its work to enhance safety at rail crossings to create “quiet zones” where trains do not have to announce themselves, the city confirmed.
The improvements for quiet zones include more traffic channeling at rail crossings and more prominent rail signals. It’s why a curb was put in the middle of Kelsey Street near the Rite Aid and future IHOP, for example.
“The city has reached out to a large and diverse number of community groups and organizations for their support” on the grade separation plan,  Humphreys said.
The request is money from the federal Reconnecting Communities and Neighborhoods Grant Program, a program which was established by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law created in 2021. The law, also sometimes called the jobs act, is a multi-billion dollar commitment set up by the Biden Administration. A split Congress approved the plan; within the U.S. Senate, 14 Republicans joined with all Democrats to pass it.



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