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Rail News: Communication and Signal

Illinois panel calls for $250 million in crossing safety improvements


The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) yesterday issued its 2020-2024 Rail Crossing Safety Improvement Plan, which calls for more than $250 million in funding to help local communities and railroads pay for safety improvements at hundreds of locations.

The plan proposes funding from the state's Grade Crossing Protection Fund (GCPF) to help cover the cost of 17 highway-rail bridge projects, four pedestrian rail bridge projects, 253 grade crossing warning device projects and low-cost improvements at 500 crossing locations, ICC officials said in a press release.

Each year, the ICC compiles and approves a plan to make rail crossings safer for motorists and pedestrians. The Crossing Safety Improvement Program prioritizes projects and allocates the funds.

Factors considered when prioritizing projects include collision history, traffic volume, engineering requirements and geographical location. The ICC also places a high priority on crossings in rail corridors where conventional speed passenger trains operate, and locations where grade crossing blockages cause substantial motorists or emergency vehicle delays, or a heightened risk for threat of train/vehicle collisions, commission officials said.

Local funding matches are required to receive GCPF dollars. In fiscal-year 2020, the ICC will consider projects requiring commitments from the GCPF totaling nearly $50 million, including over $28 million for bridge projects.

Recommended recipients and projects proposed in FY2020 include:
• The city of Aurora, which would receive $12 million in GCPF to construct a new grade separation to replace an existing North Aurora Road grade crossing of Wisconsin Central track;
• Sangamon County, which would receive $5.1 million to construct a new grade separation to carry Iron Bridge Road over Union Pacific Railroad track;
• The city of Elgin, which would receive $1.3 million to construct a grade separation to replace the Coombs Road highway grade crossing of Dakota Minnesota & Eastern Railroad track; and
• Western Springs, which would receive $900,000 to construct a new pedestrian grade crossing over BNSF Railway Co. tracks in Cook County.

Last year, total fatalities from collisions at highway-rail crossings in Illinois decreased to 19 from 25 in the previous year, according to preliminary figures. In total, there were 82 collisions at public crossings in 2018, down from 88 in 2017, according to the ICC.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/4/2019