Harrodsburg man petitions to move train tracks

HARRODSBURG, Ky. (WKYT) - "It's only going to get worse if the population grows." Robert Burdine explained his concerns from his front porch in Harrodsburg. He lives about a quarter mile from the closest train track. He said Norfolk Southern Railway runs about twenty trains a day through his town, crossing at intersections along the north end of the town.

"We can talk ten minutes, or we could talk half an hour or an hour," Burdine said when explaining the wait for at the tracks.

Stories of delays from the train are easy to come by in town. One story goes back 33 years. "I think about it sometimes when I hear the trains," said Paula Baugh. She was a young mother of three in 1981. She and her family lived next to the tracks. Her oldest daughter was three years old. She had an old clock hanging on her bedroom wall.

"It shorted while we was all asleep and the sparks hit her bed," Baugh told us. "They said she must have stood in her bed trying to put the fire out. I didn't know it at the time but her legs were on fire. The mattress had melted into her legs and I got all three of my babies out."

A neighbor called 9-1-1. Soon after, Baugh said she heard the one thing that would stop care for her daughter. "I just remember hearing sirens and the train."

Baugh doesn't know how long the fire trucks waited for the train to pass that night, but she knows it caused more pain for her daughter. "She thinks about it all the time," Baugh said.

It's stories like Baugh's that turned Burdine's passion about stopping the train's route into a petition. He currently has 1000 signatures demanding the train be rerouted around the town. "It's been going on for years, but I think this is the first citizen's petition," Burdine said.

Mercer County's judge executive told us the train is a public safety issue, but since a bypass went in more than a decade ago, there's at least the ability for emergency response teams to have a plan when the train is in their path. Harrodsburg fire officials say they currently have excellent response times.

"You get delayed down there anytime," Burdine said.

"I don't blame the train. I don't blame the fire department. The train didn't know my house was on fire but I just think it would be a good idea for them to do something about the trains," Baugh said.

Norfolk Southern's spokesman said train tracks have been rerouted in the past. However, if moving the tracks doesn't benefit the train company, the town would have to pay for the change.

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