That's the number of railroad crossings lacing the 4 square mile city of Vincennes, Indiana. Add to the mix about 75 trains per day -- stopping traffic from 5 to 15 minutes -- and you've got quite a headache.
What's more, the CSX Railroad's business is growing, and they have plans to double track their main north-south line through the city (CSX also operates an east-west line, and does crew changes in Vincennes).
As Mayor Terry Mooney told me as we drove around the city, "the railroad's the number one issue residents are concerned about."
According to Mooney it's not the regular sound of the locomotive horns -- people get used to that. It's not the extra cost to the city have having to provide additional fire stations because of the extensive number of crossings. And it's not even the delays waiting for the trains to pass. The biggest concern is about the hazardous and toxic materials that the trains carry through the densely populated city core. That's a real fear for many, including the Mayor.
Right now, Vincennes is participating in a federally sponsored study of what to do with its maze of rail crossings. Indiana Senator Lugar helped get $5 million for this study. Mayor Mooney hopes this will lead to the relocation of the CSX lines out of the heart of Vincennes, though he understands that folks in the County have their concerns about this. Other possibilites will also be examined in the study.
Mayor Mooney and city transportation engineer Hunter Pinnell travelled down to Jacksonville, Florida, to visit with top CSX officials about the study. The Mayor believes that CSX is interested in working towards a solution. After all, a route outside the core of the city would allow for higher train speeds, and also reduce the hefty cost of maintaining 84 at-grade crossings.
So you don't get the wrong idea, there's much more to Vincennes than railroads. Both the Mayor and Buddy Rogers (Director of the City's Urban Enterprise Association) pointed out many assets of their small, historic city -- which in the 18th century served as the territorial capital of a huge swath of the Midwest.
They pointed out Vincennes University's new Red Skelton Performing Arts Center (Red was a native of Vincennes); the amazing George Rogers Clark Memorial; a downtown Main Street chock-a-block with well-preserved structures; and plans for a lengthy riverfront park along the Wabash.
Buddy Rogers (who I joined for breakfast at the Old Thyme Diner), used to be the Chief Financial Officer of MicroTune, Inc. before returning to Vincennes to help care for his aging mother. He's optimistic about the city's future.
The Urban Enterprise Association recently initiated a "lofts" program -- based on a very successful program in Evansville -- which will provide matching funds to people who buy and rehab living space of 1,000 square feet or more downtown. He told me they've already received 20 applications for this program which will help strengthen downtown.
Vincennes offers plenty of history and a small-city, friendly atmosphere. I wish them the best with their downtown -- and with their rail relocation efforts.