BLACKFOOT — The Blackfoot City Council unanimously accepted a resolution Tuesday night to pursue federal funding for a planning and engineering analysis for a possible railroad overpass or underpass to alleviate problems associated with the railroad bisecting the city at several main traffic thoroughfares.
Mayor Marc Carroll said he was invited to go on a tour of the Naval reactor facility six weeks ago, with several area mayors invited to meet with staffers from Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson’s office, and Carroll asked to meet with the congressman to talk about the rail crossing issue.
Carroll said staffers set up a meeting with Simpson Sept. 15, and Simpson said he would be interested in looking at earmarking money for Blackfoot to deal with the rail crossing issue through funds from a federal Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations community project request.
“He was very enthusiastic about seeking funding to help resolve this issue,” Carroll added.
The resolution authorizes the mayor and all appropriate city personnel to apply for and seek award of federal funding for the planning, engineering, and any applicable study for all possible solutions to health, safety and welfare issues, exploring all possible solutions and determining the approximate cost, efficiency, and overall effectiveness of each possible solution.
As he presented the resolution to the council, Carroll noted that all council members and the mayor live on the east side of the tracks, and Simpson had noted that his own Blackfoot residence was on the east side, with major services located on the west side.
“We’ve made a number of different runs trying to get that resolved,” Carroll said, adding that he has been involved in at least four meetings with Union Pacific Railroad to examine solutions. “There are meetings that go back probably decades to try and get this resolved.”
The resolution outlines all of the major issues surrounding the track system paralleling Highway 91. The east side includes significant residential areas as well as State Hospital South, the newly constructed state veterans cemetery, several secondary schools, and several other commercial enterprises, while the west side includes the majority of the city’s area, all of the fire department, ambulance, city police department, and the sheriff’s office.
It notes that there are a significant number of time periods when Union Pacific has trains utilizing the tracks which blocks some or all accesses from the west side to the east side, and when the trains block those accesses it creates a significant threat to public health, safety and welfare as response times for emergency services are reduced substantially, and/or are blocked from responding altogether.
Over the last several decades, the resolution states, the city has seen substantial growth which has exacerbated the concerns for public health, safety and welfare in relation to the difficulty in crossing the tracks. The city has conducted several studies to remediate the problems with possible solutions being found to be unaffordable or ineffective.
It says the city has held several meetings with Union Pacific representatives to discuss possible solutions but have not been able to reach a resolution acceptable to both parties.