[June 26, 2014]LINCOLN - Tuesday evening the Lincoln
City Council re-convened their voting session from last week so they
could further discuss and vote on two pending motions.
Among the two motions was the request for the council to approve
taking the next necessary steps to close the Pekin Street crossing
for high-speed rail.
At the onset of the matter, Mayor Keith Snyder called on Richard
Sinks, the only person who had requested to speak regarding the
closing. Sinks took only a minute saying he had been at the Broadway
Street crossing on Tuesday and had to wait on a train. He noted a
total of five people got on or off the train. It took, he said, only
about three minutes for the train to start moving away from the
station. Sinks said that was an insignificant amount of time, and he
didn’t feel it was necessary to close Pekin Street so motorists
could save three minutes.
When the matter came up for council discussion, Snyder began by
saying he wanted to make it very clear what the council was voting
on. He said for the city to approve the closing does not mean it
will happen. Although in all likelihood it will happen, the final
decision lies with state governing bodies.
He said if approved, the city would contact Union Pacific and advise
them of the decision. There will then need to be an application for
the closure filed according to the National Environmental Policy Act
(NEPA). The responsible agency will then conduct its own study of
the impact the closure would have on the community. The agency is
then the final word on the closure, and it can go either way
depending on how that agency assesses the situation.
He added that this motion was not going to be a vote on the
distribution of the funds that the city would receive. He said it
was not a vote to shut out the impact of any business or property
owners, and it is not a vote to approve the site designs that were
shared at last week’s public hearing.
He then invited comments and questions from the council. Anderson
said when she left the meeting last week she wondered what the real
opinion on this matter was among people who live and work in
Lincoln. She said she noted those who had come forward to speak
against the closing, and wondered if anyone else cared.
She said she sent out approximately 120 emails to people who live
and work in Lincoln, asking their opinion. She also posted a
question on Facebook. She said the Facebook question yielded very
Of the 120 emails she sent out; she received 50 responses. Of those
50 responses, only four said they were opposed to closing Pekin. She
added that of the positive responses she got, she also got some good
input. She noted one in particular that suggested the city look at
how the closure will affect traffic going past the Junior High
School on Broadway Street. Anderson said that was a valid concern,
and she was hopeful that if this all comes to fruition, the city
will discuss this with the school, and try to find a way to address
it if it is a problem.
She said another comment was a question - Could Union Pacific
exercise Eminent Domain? She researched this and found that they
cannot. However, she said the Illinois Commerce Commission can
exercise their “judicial power to close any at grade crossing
without consent of the city.”
Anderson said she had spoken with engineers that have been involved
with the development of the high-speed rail plan and learned that
when high-speed rail comes through there could in fact be additional
closings and that the city would have no input on those.
She concluded then that even if the city were to say no, the
Pekin Street crossing could still be closed.
Speaking directly to Snyder, Anderson said that when it gets to
the right point in time, she wants the city to request quad
gates at all crossings so it may apply for a quiet zone, where
train whistles will not be sounded.
Lastly she said, one of her outgoing emails went to Andi Hake of
the Lincoln/Logan Chamber of Commerce. Hake took the email to
her board of directors who resoundingly supported closing the
Pekin Street crossing.
Michelle Bauer also spoke on the subject. She told the council
about a media survey that had been conducted. In the survey, she
noted, there was no space offered for comments. The question had
been asked with four answer options - Yes, no, don’t care, or
She said the five-day survey yielded only 233 answers.
Thirty-seven of the votes fell in the “don’t know” or “don’t
care” categories. Of the remaining 196, 112 said no, and 84 said
yes to the closure. Bauer said that came to 36 percent in favor
and 48 percent against. Bauer surmised the results were not a
resounding vote either way.
Marty Neitzel said she was trying to look at the long term and
felt that the long term effect would result in something very
special for Lincoln.
Police Chief Ken Greenslate was once again asked how his
department perceived the closure. He said that it would mean
re-routing of his officers to get across the tracks. He said the
option would be to go out Broadway, or take Hamilton to Tremont,
or Hamilton to Keokuk, depending on what part of the city they
were going to. He again pointed out the city is looking ahead to
a new safety complex that would not be on Pekin Street.
In the meantime, he extended his explanation of a comment made
last week about changing some stop signs. He said he would seek
a change at the intersection of Hamilton and Tremont to make it
either a 4-way stop, or change the direction of the stop. The
stop at that intersection is currently for Hamilton Street
motorists. He said a 4-way would be safer for his officers. A
stop sign for Tremont motorists instead of Hamilton would also
Joni Tibbs also noted that the Lincoln Police officers do not
spend their days at the complex waiting for calls. She noted
they are spread out around the town and that nine times out of
10 they are out and about when they get a call.
With discussion winding down, Snyder asked for the motion. A
motion was made by Neitzel and seconded by Kathy Horn. With all
eight aldermen present, the motion passed unanimously.