Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Oklahoma plans $100-million grade crossing safety initiative

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin are implementing a new initiative to fast-track hundreds of projects to improve more than 300 rail crossings statewide and upgrade safety warning features on rail crossings.

 

"First and foremost, this initiative will help to save lives by boosting safety at hundreds of rail road crossings," Fallin said. "It's also another step forward for Oklahoma's rail industry and infrastructure, which is essential to our state's commerce and economic growth."

Many of these crossings have only rail crossing signs or faint pavement markings and no flashing lights or cross arms to serve as additional warning for motorists of oncoming trains. According to ODOT, of the more than 3,700 at-grade rail crossings in the state, many have some level of recognized deficiencies when it comes to rail crossing safety. Most of the crossings are on local roads but the department remains involved because of overall rail safety.

The $100 million in improvements are being funded through combining proceeds from the recent sale of the Sooner-Sub rail line in addition to dedicated rail safety funds from ODOT and other partners.

"The department has long recognized the great need for improving rail crossings on the state, county and local transportation system. Now with the influx of funding available from the sale of the Sooner Sub, we are excited to use this money to expedite the process of improving safety along rail systems across the state," ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson said.

ODOT anticipates the rail crossings can be modernized and greatly improved by adding rail safety infrastructure, such as high-visibility signage, cross bucks, gates, hazard lighting and pavement markings. Rail funding will be leveraged with other available public and private monies to improve as many priority rail crossings as possible while also partnering with rail companies and local entities for the long-term maintenance of the improvements.

"With this initiative announced today, we believe Oklahoma should serve as a model for the rest of the country when it comes to proactively supporting safe rail crossings and the safe and efficient transport of products along rail corridors," Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley said.

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