Railroads in Olathe

Answers:

How do I report a rough rail crossing?  Notify the community relations contact for Kansas at Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway  (BNSF) Communities. Your report will be directed to the BNSF Engineering Department to arrange for an inspection at the crossing.

Why do train horns continue to blow?  Train horns blow when anyone is observed within 25 feet of all at-grade crossings in Olathe city limits.

Can the City regulate the schedule and speed of trains?  Rail transportation is legally interstate commerce, an area where the City has no jurisdiction including little/no leverage regarding the operation of schedules and speeds for rail traffic. The railroads are accountable to a semi-autonomous government agency, the Federal Railroad Administration.

Why are rail engines left idling? There are operational reasons for letting the engines idle to prevent freezing during cold winter months and to keep the brakes pressurized, etc.

Will the City elevate the west tracks?  The cost to construct an elevated rail on the BNSF West Tracks is very high due to the number of private properties that would have to be acquired by the City. Until funding can be identified, a grade separation project for the BNSF West Tracks is not scheduled.

Will the City extend the quiet zone?  Additional quiet zone projects have not been scheduled.  The City  will be required to fund the costs of improving the remaining three east mainline and four connection track crossings to qualify for a quiet zone permit from the Federal Railroad Administration. 

With future issues to address, it is reasonable to anticipate funding for additional railroad projects will be balanced with additional community needs through the Capital Improvements Program (CIP).

BNSF Frequently Asked Questions


About the rails:Train in the country landscape

The BNSF Railway has two mainline rail tracks and one connection track in Olathe.

The BNSF West Tracks moves approximately 88 trains per day through Olathe.  These tracks carry freight from Los Angeles and Longbeach CA to Chicago IL, host to the largest rail yards in the United States.  Vehicle movement is impacted at the following at-grade crossings:

  • 127th Street, also known as Harold Street
  • Dennis Avenue
  • Elm Street
  • Loula Street
  • Mulberry Street
  • Park Street
  • Santa Fe Street
  • Woodland Road

The BNSF East Tracks move approximately 52 long, slow trains per day through Olathe.  These tracks carry freight from the coal fields in Montana and Wyoming to power plants in the Southern United States. Vehicle movement is impacted at the following at-grade crossings:

  • Dennis Street at Frisco Lake
  • 151st Street Terrace
  • 159th Street

The Southgate “Spur” connects the two mainline east/west tracks operating seven to eight trains per day.  Vehicle movement is impacted at the following at-grade crossings:

  • Kansas Avenue
  • Harrison Street
  • Keeler Street
  • Dennis Avenue

The Intermodal in Southern Johnson County, near Edgerton KS, lines up geographically with Fort Worth and Alliance TX to the south and with Chicago and Joliette IL to the north. The City of Olathe does not anticipate an increase in rail traffic from the Intermodal facility.  However, more truck traffic is anticipated in the southern Johnson County area.


History:

The Olathe City Council has committed millions of dollars to eliminate at-grade railroad crossings in a long-term initiative for Olathe.

  • When the Railroad Grade Separation Project was completed in 2008, four at-grade crossings were eliminated by elevating the rails in a two-mile stretch over Ridgeview Road, Santa Fe Street, Park Street and Loula Street.  The funding and design for this project was planned over a period of ten years at a cost of $42,000,000. 
  • When the College Boulevard - Woodland Road to Ridgeview Road Project was completed in 2008, another at-grade crossing was eliminated.
  • When the 127th Street Viaduct Project was completed in 2007, an additional route was provided for traffic to cross over I-35 and the busy BNSF East Tracks.  The cost of the project was $27,000,000.
  • The Downtown Quiet Zone Project  constructed safety modifications that allows trains to pass through eleven at-grade crossings without a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) requirement to blow train horns.  The cost of the project was near $6,000,000.
Downtown Quiet Zone
At-Grade Crossing Locations Safety Modifications
127th Street, also known as Harold Street Raised Medians
Cedar Street Street Closure
Dennis Avenue Raised Medians
Elm Street Four Quadrant Gates
Loula Street Raised Medians
Mulberry Street Raised Medians
Park Street Four Quadrant Gates
Poplar Street Street Closure
Prairie Street Street Closure
Santa Fe Street Four Quadrant Gates
Woodland Road Raised Medians