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Rail News: Maintenance Of Way

Washington panel OKs safety grants for BNSF, short-line crossings


Washington state regulators have approved $130,000 in grant funding for grade crossing improvements in Yakima County and the city of Tacoma.

In Tacoma, the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) approved $50,000 in Grade Crossing Protective Fund (GCPF) grants to improve a BNSF Railway Co. crossing at McCarver Street, where two pedestrians were killed between November 2015 and November 2016.

The grant will help fund upgrades to crossing warning signals and safety barriers. BNSF, which owns the track, agreed to Tacoma's request.

Currently, 72 freight trains and 10 passenger trains traveling 57 to 64 mph use the crossing each day.

Tacoma city crews will install two train-activated pedestrian signals and gates on the crossing's east side to restrict pedestrian access when trains are present or approaching. The pedestrian gates will be designed to lower at the same time as the roadway gates, covering both the north and south sidewalk approaches to the crossing.

Flashing lights at the crossing will be upgraded to LEDs to improve visibility.

In addition, Tacoma officials have proposed the installation of 6-foot-tall metal fencing to limit pedestrian access beyond the crossing, and realignment of the sidewalks in a way that will channel pedestrians over the crossing.

The project's total cost estimate is $299,300. Tacoma will cover additional project costs outside of the $50,000 grant. The upgrades must be completed by April 2, 2018.

In Yakima County, the UTC approved grants for four grade crossings in Grandview and Granger at the request of the Central Washington Railroad, UTC officials said in a press release.

The railroad requested $20,000 for each of the four crossings to replace outdated train detection equipment. The project must be completed by June 15, 2018.

The Washington State Legislature created the GCPF in 1969 to help fund safety improvements to reduce accidents and fatalities at public and private crossings and railroad tracks.