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The Oklahoma Transportation Commission gave its approval to begin the first 10 of 300 rail crossings that are slated for "fast-track improvements" across the state, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) announced yesterday.The state will use funds from the recent sale of the Sooner Sub rail line, dedicated rail safety funds from ODOT and other partners to pay for the estimated $100 million in crossing improvements over the next three years. Previously, the ODOT had only $8 million a year in rail-safety funding, which allowed for about 25 crossing projects per year, ODOT officials said in a press release.The improvements may include signage, active warning systems and audible alert devices."The upgrades will modernize and improve the visibility and safety of the rail crossings statewide," ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson said. "This initiative will give drivers additional warning information of an approaching train which will help save lives and reduce the chances of a catastrophic accident." Gov. Mary Fallin and ODOT announced the first-of-its-kind Rail Crossing Safety Initiative last year. The department is working with rail companies and local governments to refine the locations for needed improvements. The commission will approve final agreements for the projects over the next several months."This is truly a state-wide cooperative effort between the governor's office, multiple rail companies, local governments and state agencies all with the sole purpose of making our rail crossings safer," said Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley. "We know there are still many needs to be addressed, and hope the momentum from this initiative will spur more safety improvements in the future."The state has more than 3,700 at-grade rail crossings. Last year, 12 people were killed and 21 were injured in accidents at rail crossings in Oklahoma, according to the Federal Railroad Administration and Operation Lifesaver Inc.
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