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Dangerous railroad crossing to get gates

BY CARRIE DILLARDcdillard@paducahsun.com

A well-traveled Paducah intersection, identified as one of the eight most dangerous railroad crossings in Kentucky, will soon be more safe. 

Using state railway safety funds, crossing gates will be installed on Pines Road at the intersection of North 34th Street.

City Engineer Rick Murphy has been working with representatives of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Canadian National Railroad and HMB Professional Engineers Inc. to make the crossing less risky for motorists.

"The purpose is to improve safety at these intersections," said HMB design engineer Wes Mattingly.  "Although you have a light there, it doesn't stop people from crossing."

According to Mattingly, two plans were reviewed. Both were presented to the Paducah City Commission on Tuesday.

The first plan was to install gates on Pines and North 34th. Because the gate on North 34th would be too far away from the tracks, engineers worried a school bus or other vehicle could get stuck between the lowered gate and railroad crossing, causing the driver to panic and attempt to cross the tracks in the path of an oncoming train.

The second plan, which the group recommended, was to close North 34th Street at Pines Road.

A guard rail will be installed, making it a dead-end street.

"This is a high speed and frequent crossing of rail traffic," Murphy said. "This is the best answer. Not necessarily the most convenient, but it is the best answer."

Mayor Gayle Kaler asked if emergency vehicles and school buses would be able to turn around easily on the dead-end road.

As a part of the project, Mattingly explained, a large turnaround space would be added on North 34th, which would allow for greater mobility by larger vehicles.

Construction is scheduled for fall and is expected to last about a month. The total project is estimated at $85,000, which is divided between the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Railway Safety Fund, which assumes 90 percent of the cost, and the railroad, which funds 10 percent.

The city has no funding obligation. The turnaround will become city property once constructed.

In other matters:

* John Hodges, executive director of the Paducah-McCracken County Joint Sewer Agency, briefed the commission about an $.08 per 1,000 gallon rate increase. Consumers will pay $4.43 per 1,000 gallon usage,  compared to the current rate of $4.35.

The average homeowner uses 5,000 gallons a month, Hodges stated, and therefore will see a $.40 increase on the bill. As required by Kentucky Revised Statutes, all rate adjustments must be presented to the city commission and county fiscal court.

* The city introduced ordinances for the following items: the 2015 budget totaling $67.85 million; a $134,673 payment for repairs on one of seven pumps in Floodwall Pump Station 2; and a contract with the Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau for the marketing and promotion of American Quilter's Society Quilt Week in the amount of $25,000. 

The city will vote on each of the ordinances on Tuesday, June 24.

Contact Carrie Dillard, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8657.

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