Only a third of the way through his study of potential railroad improvement projects in Claremore, James L. Terry came to a conclusion — “For a town no bigger than Claremore is, you guys have a huge train problem.”

Representing TranSystems — a Kansas City-based transportation consulting company — Terry addressed members of the Claremore community Thursday about the unique problems, and potential solutions, presented by the presence of the high volume of trains.

“Claremore is a unique city, in that it’s blessed with having two Class 1 railroads running through town,” Terry said. “It’s also a unique city in that it’s cursed with having two Class 1 railroads running through town.

“What we’re wanting to do is update a 2003 overpass feasibility study, evaluate the factors of elevating the Burlington Northern track through the City of Claremore, and investigate and evaluate possible alternative cost-effective, long-term solutions,” he said. “We also want to get input from the community to fully understand the problems here and the needs of the community.”

According to TranSystems’ studies, Burlington Northern, whose tracks run primarily north/south along Highway 66, has 35 trains a day that cut through Claremore.

Union Pacific, whose tracks head north along 88 towards Oologah, has between 15 and 18 trains a day that run through the city.

“One core issue with regards to the highway/railroad crossing is the ‘Diamond Crossing’ where the Burlington Northern and Union Pacific tracks both intersect, about 1,000 feet south of Blue Starr Drive,” he said. “Most trains won’t operate at their maximum allowable speed because of that crossing — they’ll slow down because of it, as a precautionary measure.”

Although still in the early concept stages, the elevation of the Burlington Northern tracks was the most discussed option.

“What we’re looking at right now is elevating the Burlington Northern track, with a rise starting about 250 feet north of the current ‘Diamond Crossing,’ clearing at least 16’6 over Blue Starr, and have the entire project being ‘up and on an elevated structure’ that would come down about 1,000 feet south of Archer,” he said.

Terry discussed the possible structures involved in such an undertaking, saying that the preliminary emphasis is for a bridge-like structure to run from Blue Starr to possibly Sixth Street, and the remainder of the project being an earthen structure.

“Much of what we’re talking about is dependent upon cost — certainly a bridge-structure is more aesthetically pleasant than an earthen one, but it’s also about twice the cost,” he said.

Among the challenges cited in such an undertaking are ensuring rail traffic can be maintained and minimizing road closings during construction.

Terry also discussed other possible future projects, including the introduction of traffic circles or “roundabouts” to alleviate congestion, and the creation of “Quiet Zones,” where the Union Pacific locomotive horns aren’t required to be sounded at all highway/rail grade crossings, but only if deemed appropriate by the engineer, such as in the cases of emergencies.

Ultimately, Terry said TranSystems is wanting to arrive at a solution that won’t be a “quick fix,” but solve potential problems that could arrive as Claremore continues to grow.

“The trains were here before Claremore, and they’re not going away, no matter how big the city gets,” he said. “We’re going to consider all the comments we’ve heard today, refine our design proposals, advance our Quiet Zone investigation, and hopefully come back in September with plans to resolve the short-term and long-term problems related to the railroads in the city.”

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