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Stopped Trains And Pothole Pains

Trains are crippling drive time commuters, and tire shops are getting busy again.

(Photo Credit: zazamaza/Thinkstock)

Stopped trains are a problem in the Circle City.

We’re not talking about cool trains like the Orient Express, where you get to meet eccentric and sexy people - and later solve a horrific crime. We’re talking about shipping trains that stop and block commuter routes during rush hour in a self-declared “world class city.”

World class? I’ll get on board if our infrastructure starts meeting us halfway, which includes trains not crippling rush AND the elimination of big, fat, motherless potholes on the streets and interstates.  They've returned alright, and with an army that rivals the chinese in numbers.  

Both are ongoing traffic calamities, so let’s discuss. Civilly.

I’ll at least try.


Stopped trains are wrecking our commutes. They’re happening in every part of town, like in Greenwood near the mall (!) and on the west side at Holt Rd.  But there are two in particular that have near east side and Lawrence commuters apoplectic: the tracks that run north and south near I-65/70, and the tracks that run parallel to Pendleton Pike/U.S. 36 in Lawrence. 

We'll start at the tracks at I-65/I-70, since these stopped trains often take out the downtown one-ways. 

According to my traffic learner's guide, that's not good at all.


This train is taking regular siestas on the tracks during morning and evening rush hours. @BucherPhoto caught it napping on the job alright, and did exceptional work in chronicling this particular stoppage:

Unfamiliar to the area? It’s on the near east side, barely out of downtown. It stops all the time, and blocks two major east/west commuter routes. Take a look:

Near East Side

Again, what makes this inexcusable is the train quitting during rush hour. There's no explanation that's worth buying, but at least the train got moving again.

Ummmm, wait a sec:

Here's the problem: Traffic is now backed up beyond the on/off-ramps to I-65/I70, meaning no one can get on/off the interstate that runs between the north and south splits. 

Finally, the train started towards its destination, so the backup started to clear out. Super!

Sorry, that's not true. At all. It was still stopped, resting comfortably:

We're going on an hour-and-fifteen minutes of stoppage time during rush hour. What the hell is happening?

@JDell1981 blammed breakfast, as in the engineers taking a Square Donuts break. You know what's bizarre? This tweet got a ton responses at @WIBCTraffic, talking about crews leaving stopped trains to go grab a bite.

Is that true? Ever pack a lunch before you go to work? No way it happens. This has to be proven to me, and pardon my ignorance if it's common. But if this is real, and in the metro area...


Back to business, the train has been stopped for 90-minutes - and for real this time - it's actually moving! Oh wait, oh lordy, its cousin is sitting cold right behind it:

Insane. Frustrating, and entirely unnecessary.

We were FLOODED with comments from angry commuters who were arriving at work way too late.

Think about that for a moment.

Is it so much of a stretch to believe that the Indianapolis economy could be fractured by such a frequent loss of productivity, and people could lose their jobs for being tardy? It's not impossible:

Most concerning is a point brought home by @eroka_5. How are emergency crews and first responders supposed to respond accordingly to an emergency call, when a train is stopped and blocking multiple intersections to the property they're supposed to be helping.

Good God, I hope I don't need an ambulence during rush hour. 

Sorry guy, your heart stopped because of a broken down train. You dead? Crap.

Finally, the train - on this particular morning - was stopped for ONE HOUR AND FORTY-FIVE MINUTES.

During rush hour.

Not cool. 

Zach Adamson is an Indianapolis city-county councilman representing the district where the near eastside train often stops. He tweeted to @WIBCTraffic. I don't think he was happy:


Another repeat offender is a train in Lawrence that runs parallel to Pendleton Pike on the northeast side.

It has absoutely murdered traffic the past couple of weeks.

Last Tuesday afternoon, the train was so long and so broken, Lawrence commuters had to use Main St. in Fortville to pull off the end around.

Take a look:

Pen Pike

This train - on this day - was stopped for an hour during rush hour. According to Jeff Coats - District 5 Indianapolis City-County Councilman - the train totally broke down.

Fine, but not fine at all.

It's up to the company that operates the trains and lines to keep their people moving through the metro area. Every stoppage we've talked about involves CSX - a group that oversees the majority of train routes in Indianapolis - including every route that's been discussed in this blog. A train breaking down during rush is never acceptable. It's your job, CSX, to keep your trains running.

How about spending a little cash for the upkeep?  Or dont, and just keep your trains out of rush hour. 

There's your compromise, and here endith the lesson...

Coats - who represents the district that hosted the stopped train in Lawrence - talked with @WIBCTraffic and provided insight on our options to get a loitering train moving again, and what action we can take to put the clamps on companies that care little if we lose our jobs or not.


State law says a train can't be stopped for more than 10-minutes. If it is, you contact the affiliated police department's NON-EMERGENCY number. In this case:

Stopped train #1, Call IMPD non-emergency dispatch at (317) 327-3811

Stopped train #2, Call Lawrence City Police Department at (317) 549-6404.

They can ticket the engineer. 

If you have a repeat offender - and both of these trains are just that - you can contact the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) State Transportation Division at (317) 232-1491 and file a report. 

If there's still no improvement, you can either get a hold of your congressional representative or Federal Railroad Administration.

Here's the deal. We can call the police, but that's unlikely we'll get immediate results. The police have to be dispatched, find the engineer, and write the ticket. The process is going to take a lot of time, and is unlikely to get anykind of possitive results.

This is where INDOT and the feds come in. We need to create and show - according to Coats - "a pattern of bad behavior" - so the higher ups take notice and kick an operator like CSX in the ass. In other words, a more methodical approach will yield actual improvements, as opposed to immediate expectations. 

Coats added, "If there are other reasons - other preventable reasons (for a stopped train) - then we need to talk to CSX - or whoever is operating the (offending) train, and get them to be a little more cooperative in high density areas where streets are blocked.

So let's get to work and start tattling on these guys. Afterall, we can all agree that train traffic and stoppages have definitely increased over the last couple of years. As Coats noted, there are even signs posted at certain intersections that caution motorists of increased traffic.

The same train will stop over and over until we do our part, right @bbwyatt3?


Potholes have made a furious comeback to the interstates around Indianapolis. At the time of publication, the following potholes are still tormenting commuters attached to our interstate system:

@notanotherbeard: potholes northwest side, from westboud I-465 to southbound I-465. All lanes affected.

AND northwest side, southbound I-465 south of I-65 ramp. Middle lane impassable:

South side:

@Chromaticphoto: pothole on northbound I-65 before I-465. It's in the center lane:

@weaverml34: westbound I-465 to Kentucky Ave./S.R. 36. Gaper in the right lane.

@joshayes21: northbound U.S. to eastbound I-465


@CircleCitySweet: whale pothole on southbound Boulevard Place, between 32nd and 30th streets. 

@nathanraycarr: German Church Rd., east of 46th St.

@cawimpa: Keystone Ave. from 62nd to 65th Streets.

@PhillippPorter: S.R. 135 turning east onto Thompson Rd..

@JonnyCautious: poor Rose, late for work because of potholes.

First, this entry will have a part two. CSX has a very convoluted system of reporting a stopped train, and I'm guessing that's not by accident.

But first, it's April.. remember the I-65 shutdown? Here's a refresher.

We have these things dead to rights, and we'll talk again soon.


Matt Bair doesn't like stopped trains unless his stick and bindle is full and he's ready to become a train hopping hobo. He's the new voice of Indianapolis traffic, and can be followed on Twitter @WIBCTraffic. Tips? Call direct at (317) 684-8134 or the 93 WIBC Newsroom at (317) 637-6397


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