Thursday, June 26, 2014
sponsored by

City to move forward on request for Pekin Street closure

Send a link to a friend  Share

[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 little response.

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.

[to top of second column]

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 not sure.

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 be helpful.

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.


< Top Stories index

Back to top