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The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) last week approved nearly $450,000 in grant funds to make safety upgrades at a crossing on an oil train route in Skamania County.The county requested the funds to complete long-term safety improvements at Butler Road, also known as Skamania Landing Road. The crossing was identified by commission rail-safety staff as a priority under-protected crossing along an oil route, according to a UTC press release.Existing railroad warning devices at the crossing consist of flashing lights, crossbucks and advance warning signs. The slope on the south approach to the crossing limits sight distance down the tracks, making it difficult for vehicles to stop, restart, and quickly clear the tracks, UTC officials said. The site is a two-track crossing with no visual or physical barrier between vehicles and trains. Double-track crossings also present an added safety hazard for motorists due to the "second train" dynamic, they said.The grant will cover the cost of installing new active warning devices that include shoulder-mounted flashing LED lights, gates and a bungalow that will house batteries, chargers, an event recorder, and a constant warning train detection system. The project must be completed by Dec. 31, 2018. An average of 100 vehicles cross the track daily. BNSF Railway Co. operates up to 30 trains over the crossing each day, traveling at a speed of 55 mph. Two passenger trains each day operate over the crossing at 60 mph.
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