Halstead working with BNSF to close railroad gate

HALSTEAD—With the Little Arkansas River levels continuing to inch higher near Halstead, city officials have been in communication with BNSF officials throughout the day Thursday about closing the levee gate east of town that would block the railroad.

As of 3:45 p.m., City Administrator Ethan Reimer said he was just about to have another tele-conference meeting with BNSF officials to work out details of closing the gate.

“It still could be closed later today,” Reimer said.

As of 2 p.m., the river level was 20.4 feet, and the city considers 20 feet to be the mark at which to close the railroad gate.

Reimer explained that they had to consult with BNSF before closing this gate so that trains could be rerouted and not be negatively affected.

“It’s our gate and at the end of the day we have to do what’s best for the city,” he said. “But BNSF is a large corporation with tons of infrastructure, and they have to make sure their trains arrive safely and on time.”

Halstead Fire Chief Jim VanSchaick said crews were all ready to close the railroad gate as soon as they get the green light. He estimated that the department and other volunteers had filled about 1,000 sandbags today, some of which were placed outside the now-closed Halstead Road levee gate, and the rest of which are ready to be barricaded against the railroad gate.

Reimer and VanSchaick both said the river levels are the highest they’ve ever seen in their time with the city.

The last time Halstead had to shut a gate was 2013 when just the Halstead Road (County Road 801) gate was shut. In 2007, the city shut both that gate and the railroad gate.

If the river reaches 22 feet, the city will close the Main Street gate.

Roads around Halstead closed due to flooding include both the approaches from the north: K-89 (Herztler Road) and Halstead Road. SW 36th Street east of town between Hertzler Road and South Essex Heights has also been closed.

Portions of Highway 50 are also underwater, including near the intersection with Old Settlers Road. As of 3 p.m., the highway was still open and vehicles were driving through, but KDOT crews were on scene monitoring it.

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