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The Iowa Transportation Commission yesterday approved funding for safety improvements at 32 grade crossings and surface improvements at 19 crossings. The projects involve BNSF Railway Co., CN, Canadian Pacific and Union Pacific Railroad crossings.The safety improvements include the addition of signals with gate arms at 27 crossings and circuitry upgrades at five others. The commission also approved funds to help close several crossings. Engineering and planning for the improvement projects will take place over the next year with installations planned in 2015, commission officials said in a press release.The Highway-Railroad Crossing Safety Program provides 90 percent of the cost of a safety improvement, with the remaining 10 percent covered by a city, county, railroad, or a combination of those parties. Projects are prioritized according to a benefit/cost analysis."Applications for safety improvements at crossings with a high probability for a serious crash and that propose an effective, cost-efficient improvement get the highest priority," said Jim Gibson program manager in the Iowa Department of Transportation's Office of Rail Transportation. "Any safety improvement we can make will help accomplish the state's goal of zero fatalities on our transportation system."Meanwhile, the state added six projects to planned crossing surface improvements in 2014 and 13 other projects are scheduled for 2015, commission officials said.The Highway-Railroad Crossing Surface Repair Program covers 60 percent of a repair cost, with a city or county and the associated railroad each providing 20 percent. Projects primarily are funded in the order in which applications are received."The party responsible for the roadway applies for surface repair funding," said Mary Jo Key, another program manager in the Office of Rail Transportation. "The available money allows only a limited number of surface improvements each year, so there is a multi-year waiting period for the assistance."