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Friday, June 04, 2010

Fort Carson, Colo., hits roadblock with proposed railroad expansion

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Fort Carson hopes to get military equipment that soldiers need shipped overseas faster, local media report. The Mountain Post wants to add a train track to an already existing track. The new track would start at the Fort Carson rail yard and continue about a half-mile off post.

According to Commander Robert McLaughlin, the shipment of everything from tanks to Humvees out to a coastal port takes about 96 hours during Army deployments out of Fort Carson. McLaughlin says the extra track would boost production, speeding up shipment times by as much as 24 hours, from 96 hours to 72 hours.

Fort Carson says the initial plan was introduced back in 2005 but it recently hit a roadblock. The trains carrying all the Army equipment pass right by the Stratmoor Hills neighborhood, just north of Fort Carson. Neighborhood leaders say they weren't informed of Fort Carson's plans for expansion until just recently. Now, they're concerned about public safety and noise.

"They have to balance what their mission is with what are concerns are for the community," said Jane Dillon, a Stratmoor Hills resident.

Commander McLaughlin says the expansion would only mean positive things for the Stratmoor Hills community. "The goal for the project we believe in the long run will limit the amount of time that trains are operating," said McLaughlin. "It will reduce noise, reduce traffic and make it more safe."

Another part of the railway expansion would be the construction of a pedestrian bridge near B-Street. Fort Carson has submitted an environmental assessment that won't be fully processed until June 20.

Dillon says once she and the rest of her neighbors from Stratmoor Hills were informed of Fort Carson's plans they have been kept in the loop. But she still has concerns, including the worry that a major road leading to the neighborhood will be blocked by trains. Dillon says a fire department is on one side of the tracks and the neighborhood is on the other. She wonders what would happen if there were an emergency. "A two or three minute delay could mean a life," said Dillon.

Stratmoor Hills neighbors have also talked with Fort Carson about a possible sound barrier similar to the ones along I-25.

"We've got to have balance with the need to deploy combat brigades and the community concerns," said Commander McLaughlin. "We will do that."

Commander McLaughlin says he will report to General Perkins with recommendations from the community before any plans on the expansion become final.

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