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Town receives grant for railroad crossing

A $250,000 bump in the road has been smoothed out for Jonesborough’s ongoing walkway project along Little Limestone Creek.
The project, which will create a one-mile trail along the creek from Barkley Creek Park to connect with already existing trails in Mill Spring Park, hit a snag when state officials informed town leaders of the need for better signalization at the railroad crossing at Second Avenue.
According to federal requirements, the crossing must have a working crossing bar for the walkway trail, which is being funded by a Walkway Enhancement Grant, to come within 200 feet of it.
The town received approximately $600,000 in an 80/20 matching grant to complete the trail, which town officials planned to do by excluding the property within 200 feet of the crossing from the grant-funded portion of the project.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation has since insisted the town address the signalization at the railroad crossing.
According to Town Administrator Bob Browning, the town can use funds from the Walkway Enhancement Grant to put in the crossing, but with a price tag of $250,000, that portion of the project would eat up nearly all of the grant money and would prevent the town from completing the trail.
“It would have been a major issue for us,” Browning said. “You take $250,000 out of that project and that has a dramatic impact on what we are able to do.”
With that in mind, Browning began looking for other money available for the signalization of the railroad crossing.
TDOT has a railroad signalization grant program, but it only funds about six projects a year, Browning said. With a priority list of more than 3,000 crossings to fix (Jonesborough’s Second Avenue is ranked 400 on the list), it would take more than a half-century for the project to get done.
Browning recently found a quicker way to get the work done with help from the Metropolitan Planning Organization, the local transportation partnership for Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties.
Earlier this month, the MPO voted to fund the $250,000 signalization project.
Other railroad crossings that the trail will run along, including those at Fox Street and Third Avenue, already have crossing bar signals, but will require upgrades that can be completed with money from the Walkway Enhancement Grant, Browning said.
Town leaders are waiting on the state to approve its walkway plans before bidding out the project.
“We hope to be under construction by March (2012),” Browning said. “The deadline to have it completed is still August (2012).”