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Rail News: Safety

Illinois panel OKs five-year plan to improve rail crossing safety


The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) announced this week it has approved a five-year plan for safety improvements at grade crossings and grade separations across the state.

During fiscal years 2018-2022, the ICC will begin automatic warning device installations for circuitry upgrades at nearly 220 crossings, construct or reconstruct 18 grade separations (bridges) and make low-cost improvements at more than 1,200 crossings, according to an ICC press release.

The commission prioritizes the projects based on collision history, necessary improvements to rail corridors with conventional speed passenger trains, and the need to add more highway and pedestrian separations.

The projects' scope ranges from new automatic flashing light signal and crossing gate installations to new and improved vehicle and pedestrian bridges.

Safety improvements may include increasing the vertical clearance for motor vehicles passing under railroad bridges, replacing older warning signals and gates, synchronizing grade crossing warning signals with adjacent traffic signals, or installing sensor devices that will immediately alert the railroad to warning device failures.

The projects will be funded in part by the Grade Crossing Protection Fund, which the Illinois General Assembly created to support the majority of costs of improvements at grade crossings and highway-rail bridge crossings involving local roads and streets. The fund uses a portion of the motor fuel tax designated specifically for rail-safety programs.

Last year, the state recorded 102 collisions at public crossings resulting in 25 deaths and 36 injuries. Those statistics are down from 2015, when Illinois reported 125 collisions, 30 deaths and 83 injuries.