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St. Peters alderman questions traveling speeds of local trains

Train speeds in St. Charles could become a topic of discussion at the County Municipal League.

Train speeds in St. Charles could become a topic of discussion at the County Municipal League.

A St. Peters alderman is worried about the safety of railroad crossings in the city and wants to encourage Congress to provide cities with some authority to set local speed limits.

Alderman Rocky Reitmeyer (Ward 1) brought a resolution before the board at its July 23 work session that would encourage Congress to enact legislation to provide cities some speed limit authority.

The board took no action on the resolution, but agreed to bring it before the St. Charles County Municipal League to discuss the issue with other cities. The municipal league includes the mayors of the county’s major municipalities. The board may take up the resolution in August.

“We’re always thinking about safety,” Reitmeyer told the board.

He said local officials don’t know how fast trains are going and what they are carrying when they go through the city. He said he also is concerned about the condition of the rail cars traveling on local rails. The city has three railroad crossings along its northern boundary.

The board had adopted a similar resolution in January 1996. Since then, Reitmeyer said speeds appear to have increased. Rail speed limits in the United States are regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration and railroads implement their own speed limits. At 55 mph, it takes about 1.5 miles to stop a train, Reitmeyer said.

While Reitmeyer took the issue up with the St. Peters board, other aldermen said the discussion should include other municipalities as well as local state representatives and congressmen.

Alderman Dave Thomas (Ward 1) commended Reitmeyer and said the issue also involves increasing driver awareness at crossings. However, Thomas noted that getting railroads to adjust their speed limits may be difficult because local municipalities have little authority in this area.

“I think they are going to laugh at us,” he said.

Thomas suggested that city officials might want to talk with their counterparts in neighboring municipalities to coordinate their requests and stave off problems such as various cities asking for different speed limits.

“We want 40 mph, St. Charles or O’Fallon wants 55 mph, how are the trains going to do that?” Thomas asked.

Alderman Judy Bateman (Ward 2) suggested that the subject could be discussed with the County Municipal League in Cottleville on July 29. Bateman also suggested that Reitmeyer could discuss the issue with the city’s state lobbyist and with local legislators.

“I don’t think the state has any authority over the railroads,” she said, adding that cities could come to a consensus on issues involving railroads before approaching the area congressional delegation with any request for action.

The board took no action on the resolution; however, it may come back up for discussion once railroad issues are discussed with other city and state officials, Bateman said.

Reitmeyer said he planned to contact local legislators.

“I don’t want a catastrophe to happen here in St. Charles County,” he said. “I want people to feel at ease when they watch those trains fly by.”

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