It has been almost 15 years since Vincennes received a $5 million federal grant that was initially to be used to help relocate railroad tracks outside the city limits.
That has never happened, but the money has been spent — or will have all been spent later this year with CSX makes repairs to three of its street crossings, at 15th Street, Washington Avenue and Main Street.
Monday night the city council approved spending $326,558 as its share of the cost of installing “full depth rubber crossings” at those sites.
Mayor Joe Yochum said the project will “just about” spend all that remains of what's been referred to over the years as the “railroad money.”
“This will about do it,” he said of the $326,558 appropriation. “There might be a little change left, but this will take care of about everything … after 15 years.”
The $5 million was originally awarded to Vincennes in 2005 thanks to the efforts of the late Sen. Richard Lugar, who saw to it that the money was added to the federal highway spending bill during a conference committee.
While some of the money was spent, the project to relocate the tracks didn't survive then Mayor Terry Mooney's unsuccessful re-election campaign. His successor, Al Baldwin, planned to use the money to help with building an overpass on Sixth Street, instead.
He, too, spent some of the money on planning for the overpass.
But then that project didn't survive Baldwin's own re-election bid, leaving the money in an account waiting to be used by Yochum in some way.
Yochum's problem has been finding qualifying ways to spend what remained of the money (about $3 million), meeting the federal stipulation that it had to be spent on some railroad-related way.
Almost $2 million was spent on improvements at the intersection of North Second Street and Niblack Boulevard, and other money on repairing various crossings throughout the city.
It is not clear just when this work will be done, maybe this summer, the mayor said.
“As always it will be up to CSX when they'll be here,” Yochum said. “We just have to wait and see, like we always do.
“But once they're done those crossings will be a lot better than they are now.”