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County asks UP to fix rail intersections

October 2, 2012
By Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer , Estherville Daily News

The Emmet County Board of Supervisors Tuesday agreed to send a letter to Union Pacific officials about four hazardous rail intersections in the county.

"Union Pacific waits until things are absolutely bad," said county engineer Roger Patocka who noted the railroad gets a cost-share of 20 percent each from the county and the Department of Transportation and then does the work itself. "They pad their bill considerably. That's kind of the system," Patocka said. "They play the game as far as getting as much out of it as they can."

Patocka said the repairs could carry a $100,000 cost per county, or $80,000 for the county's share.

Article Photos

The railroad intersection above is the key subject of a letter from the Emmet County Board of Supervisors to Union Pacific. Note the raised rails of the railbed.
EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

"They're above the law in a lot of things," agreed supervisor Alan Madden.

The supervisors' biggest concern was a crossing on Emmet County N60 a half mile south of Highway 9.

"Crossing 608-530Y needs immediate attention since it has deteriorated to the point where it is a traffic hazard to cross. It is located on an open segment of an asphalt surfaced road where traffic usually travels around 55 mph," the board said in its letter to UP officials.

Fact Box

Supervisors concerned about rail crossings

Following is the text of a letter by the Emmet County Board of Supervisors sent to Mike Blackly, manager of industry and public projects for Union Pacific Railroad in Omaha.

The concerned intersections are:

n 608-530Y, on Emmet County N60, one-half mile south of Iowa Highway 9.

n 875-984F, on St. James Ave., in Wallingford.

n 608-537W, on Emmet County P13, at Iowa Hwy 9.

n 608-515W, on Emmet County 180th St., on the southeast edge of Estherville.

Dear Mr. Blackly:

Our County Engineer has notified you concerning problems at four Union Pacific railroad crossings in Emmet County.

Crossing 608-530Y needs immediate attention since it has deteriorated to the point where it is a traffic hazard to cross. It is located on an open segment of an asphalt surfaced road where traffic usually travels around 55 mph.

We are aware that Union Pacific typically expects the local road authority to initiate the Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) Improvement Projects procedure to widen, resurface, maintain or improve roadway work at the UP crossing rights-of-way. We understand that the local road authority is expected to schedule Grade Crossing Projects by submitting a project request to the Iowa Department of Transportation for 60% UP funding, 20% IDOT funding and 20% local funding.

However, it is our opinion, as well as the opinion of a number of other citizens using 608-530Y, that this crossing is a safety hazard and needs your immediate attention and repair.

The three remaining crossings referenced above are also in poor condition; however, their location dictates a slower speed. Although these three crossings also need repair, they do not warrant the priority that should be directed to 608-530Y due to immediate safety concerns.

Crossing 875-984F is located on a 25 mph street, crossing 608-537W is located at a stop-signed intersection with a primary state highway, and crossing 608-515W is located on a graveled road, at the southeast edge of Estherville's city limits before travelers increase their speed.

It is anticipated that all four crossings will be incorporated into Emmet County's Five-Year Plan and Budget. However, Emmet County has a significant slate of road repair, maintenance and equipment needs that competes with other expenditures such as repair of railroad crossings.

We would greatly appreciate your attention to keeping all of Union Pacific's crossings in good repair, but especially 608-530Y which demands your immediate attention.

If you have questions or comments, please contact us.

Thank you.


Beverly Juhl, Chairperson

Alan Madden

Jon Martyr

Tim Schumacher

Ronald Smith

Emmet Count Board of Supervisors

Unless repaired, the situation could be severely exacerbated when heavy truck traffic crosses the intersection to and from a feed mill under construction in Halfa.

In other business, the board looked at a number of storage options for the secondary roads and conservation departments.

Emmet County Conservation Board director Eric Anderson said he had left word with Armstrong-Ringsted about the possibility of renting the Ringsted School bus barn. Madden said that while the fair board was willing to make storage available to county department, previously arranged contracts prevented that.

"They're (fair board) talking about working together" and discuss the possibility for the coming year, Madden said.

Patocka said that while secondary roads didn't need any space at Ringsted, space was needed at Gruver and Armstrong.

Anderson said his first choice for storage was Gruver since it was in the middle of the county. However, he said Ringsted could be an option.



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