Wednesday, December 16, 2009

County seeks signals at crossing near Hammond, Kan.

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The Bourbon County, Kan., Commissioners are working hard to get signals installed at a dangerous railroad crossing, The Fort Scott Tribune reports. Since earlier this summer, the commission has been working on getting signals installed at the railroad crossing on 225th Street, one-quarter of a mile south of Hammond.

The commission is seeking to improve the crossing because it is difficult and dangerous for people traveling north on 225th Street driving large vehicles and farm equipment to look backward to see if a train is coming.

The commission was told by the Kansas Department of Transportation that with their traffic count number, the crossing does not meet the requirements to be placed on the priority list. On Nov. 30, the commissioners wrote a letter to KDOT, state and national leaders, and BNSF requesting that the crossing be moved up on the priority list. The letter was accompanied with a new traffic count, which was compiled by the county. According to the commission, the difference between KDOT's numbers and the county's numbers was "significant."

KDOT Railroad Technician Specialist Gary Farlow said there are about 5,000 railroad crossings in Kansas and it is difficult to keep an accurate traffic count on them all. He said the state conducts a 24-hour traffic study for each crossing every seven or eight years.

Less than one week after sending the letter Farlow called the county saying the traffic count numbers had been updated and that the crossing still did not qualify for federal funding. However, there was another option. This option would be an 80/20 matching grant between KDOT and BNSF that would come from a small project fund within KDOT. According to Farlow, this program would only require the commission to pass a resolution asking for the project. With a small fund to draw from, Farlow said KDOT could only complete about two projects each year.

With the required resolution signed Dec. 11, commissioners and Farlow will meet to take measurements and photographs of the crossing to get the approval for the funding. Farlow said it could be up to six months before an agreement is made between KDOT, BNSF and the county. He said, if approved, BNSF has one year to get the signals installed.

"It can be a lot quicker than that, but that should be, I would hope, the worst-case scenario giving any unforeseen things happening," Farlow said.

If approved, the signals would be installed and maintained by BNSF, according to Farlow.

Without the use of the KDOT funding program, it could be a few years before the crossing even makes it onto the priority list. With communities developing and numbers constantly changing, it is hard to determine how long it would be.

There is currently no guarantee if the crossing will be addressed, but the commission is happy with getting the issue some much-needed attention.

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