Olathe considering more than a dozen options to fix traffic tie-ups caused by trains

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OLATHE, Kan. -- If you live, work or even just drive through Olathe, you know what it's like to get stuck behind a train. The ding-ding-ding of a train track’s crossing arms are a familiar sound that can throw a wrench into your travel plans.

Every day, an average of 88 trains cross through the west side of town. Now, the city is studying ways to make your commute a little easier.

“The problem with this train station is the train goes by about two, three trains every hour,” Kamal Fuleihan said.

Fuleihan said he gets stuck in Olathe's train traffic a lot since he owns a business right beside the tracks.

“Sometimes, I have to get here urgently and have to wait at least a few minutes, or even more, and then I have to re-route because the train is very slow,” Fuleihan said.

Thousands who drive through west Olathe share this frustration, and it's only getting worse.

“Traffic continues to grow here,” Nate Baldwin, Olathe assistant city engineer, said.

In 2004, the city worked with a consultant to study ways to re-route train traffic. After a recent long-term visioning process with residents, city leaders said many of them identified the west side train tie-ups as a top concern.

Now, the city is revisiting that 15-year-old study, updating it with new options and current costs to make changes.

“People have anticipation of how long it to get from point A to point B. You do not anticipate waiting on a railroad track crossing if the gates come down. So, what we're looking at doing is ensuring you have reliable travel time and that you're not sitting there,” Baldwin said.

Fourteen different options are being considered, including plans to lay all new tracks west of existing ones in some locations, plans to put crossings underground or raise rails above the road, and even plans to re-work streets to loop around train tracks.

 “We'd appreciate it very much here if they'd do that,” Fuleihan said.

It's very early in this process right now. The city has to find tens of millions of dollars and will need to work with BNSF.

City leaders are optimistic that at least some of the proposed changes could be worked into the next five-year capital improvement plan, which is part of current budget talks. The public is invited to give input during these sessions.

You can view all the proposals here.

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