Thursday, February 06, 2014

Federal funds helping states and localities make rural railroad crossings safer

A chronic problem in remote rural areas is a lack of warning lights or arm gates at railroad crossings. With only a sign marking many crossings, it's not uncommon to see stories about a driver being killed after failing to see an oncoming train. The problem could be significantly reduced, thanks to a $220 million fund from the U.S. Department of Transportation designed to improve safety precautions. (Forum News Service photo by David Samson: A driver was killed Sunday at this Sabin, Minn., railroad crossing) 

Funds "are eligible for projects at all public crossings including roadways, bike trails and pedestrian paths," according to the Transportation Department website. "Fifty percent of a state's apportionment is dedicated for the installation of protective devices at crossings. The remainder of the funds apportionment can be used for any hazard elimination project, including protective devices." Funds can also be used "as incentive payments for local agencies to close public crossings provided there are matching funds from the railroad," and "for local agencies to provide matching funds for state-funded projects." Federal funds will cover 90 percent of the costs, and in some cases, 100 percent. (Read more)

That's good news for states like Minnesota, where about two-thirds of public railroad crossings "don’t have advanced signals for motorists and pedestrians such as crossing gates, lights and bells," Cali Ownings reports for  The Forum of Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn. Minnesota will receive $6 million from the program; local agencies will have to come up with 10 percent of the costs, estimated at $50,000 to $250,000 per project. (Read more)

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