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No solutions for pedestrian safety at Greenwood railway

BY REBECCA MORIN | DECEMBER 05, 2013 5:00 AM

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One morning, while waiting for a train stuck in the middle of the road at Greenwood Drive, University of Iowa doctoral student Brian Fahey witnessed people climbing over and under the train.

Initially concerned about the safety issues posed by the train, Fahey contacted Iowa City officials.

However, officials do not have any immediate solutions to address the issue at Greenwood Drive.

“I was inquiring to see what could be done,” Fahey said. “A lot of students were crossing over the train, and even went under the train, to get to the other side. It was more of a safety issue of what can be done to take a proactive stance.”

Fahey first inquired about building a pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks, which cross Greenwood Drive located south of the University of Iowa’s west campus. City officials did not think it would be financially feasible to construct a bridge, which could exceed  $2 million to $3 million. Another concern was the size of the bridge would change the neighborhood.

Officials are working on a project they hope to implement in 2015 to create an underpass for cars and an overpass for pedestrians at a railway crossing near Southeast Junior High.

“… That’s a project that’s been in the works for about 10 years,” said Rick Fosse, director of Public Works. “That will provide separation for pedestrians and the road — that’s a solution we hope to implement in that location.”

Although Fahey’s initial proposal was turned down, he has several other ideas for the city to be proactive in regards to train safety.

“One idea I had was to put up electronic signs that would indicate when a train was coming, and if there are any delays,” Fahey said. “Let’s face it, if a train stops on finals week, students are going to be late, and it isn’t as if the train is going to write them a note.”

However, Tom Klemm, assistant chief engineer of engineering services for Iowa Interstate Railroad, said putting up signage would be unlikely.

“Our trains aren’t on a fixed schedule,” Klemm said. “We can’t provide information, and we don’t support signage.”

Klemm said that there are many crossings in Iowa City, and some that are pedestrian-friendly for those stuck at a railway.

“There are other crossings in town,” he said. “The trains don’t always stop in the same place and won’t always allow keeping everything open.”

Although there is no set solution, Iowa City City Councilor Terry Dickens said that a citizen’s concern is the council’s concern.

“It’s something we can take a look at,” he said. “When a citizen brings it up, we’ll look into it.”

Fahey said regardless of what can or cannot be done, he is satisfied his concerns were heard by the city.

“I just wanted to see what could be done, and I just wanted to build up a working dialogue, like what resources could be done,” he said. “It would be more preferable for them than a student to get killed.”


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