The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) announced March 24 that it has approved its annual five-year Crossing Safety Improvement Program (FY 2024-2028) to implement highway-rail safety projects at local roads across the state. More than $476 million dollars from the Grade Crossing Protection Fund (GCPF) and Rebuild Illinois (RBI) will help communities and railroads pay for improvements at 424 crossing locations.
According to ICC, the five-year plan proposes GCPF dollars to help cover the cost of 34 new bridge projects, 365 new grade crossing projects, and 15 low-cost emergency or experimental improvements at over 400 crossing locations. Among the projects are updates across Illinois to keep pedestrians, bicyclists, and commuters safe while alongside railroad tracks. The program, ICC says, will also “continue to invest in major multi-year projects that will improve overall safety and public convenience.” To address inflation and higher cost estimates, it also provides additional funding compared to previous years and aims to “better position Illinois projects as communities apply for federal funds.”
A few of the new projects in this year’s five-year plan include:
- $5 million to build a new US Route 14 highway underpass in Barrington to safely separate fast moving motor vehicle traffic from railroad tracks.
- $2.5 million for White, Hamilton, and Jefferson Counties to install and improve infrastructure to reduce the risk of collisions at 8 crossings.
- $1.3 million for Aurora to install new flashing light signals, improve crossing surfaces, and roadway and pedestrian gates at Old Indian Trail Road and Sullivan Road.
- $3.2 million for Galesburg to eliminate a crossing, upgrade protections at nine crossings, and improve multiple roadway approaches to prevent vehicles from getting stuck on tracks.
- $2.3 million for Rockford to modernize its flashing light signals and roadway gates at six separate Illinois Railway crossings.
According to ICC, the Commission prioritizes projects based on several factors including, safety of the existing crossing, collision history, traffic volume, engineering requirements, and geographical location. The ICC also promotes and supports “The Three E’s” of railroad safety: “Education through Operation Lifesaver Illinois; Enforcement of existing laws to ensure motorists and pedestrians obey all railroad safety laws; and the Engineering necessary to make crossings as physically and operationally safe as possible.”
“Upgrading pedestrian crossings, flashing warning devices, and other critical safety infrastructure is a no brainer for keeping Illinoisans safe while they traverse rail tracks,” said ICC Commissioner Michael Carrigan. “Over 7,000 miles of track makes our state’s rail system the second largest in the nation, and the Grade Crossing Protection Fund is an essential tool for keeping these railways safe for all who use them.”
“The projects in this year’s Crossing Safety Improvement Program reflect the ICC’s commitment to reducing the potential for rail collisions,” added ICC Chairman Carrie Zalewski. “Improving our state’s existing infrastructure and installing modernized warning signs ahead of tracks are surefire steps to keep people and goods safe as they travel along Illinois’ railways.”
Additionally, the ICC has approved two Stipulated Agreements requiring new automatic warning devices at highway-rail crossings near Decatur in Macon County and near Belleville in St. Clair County.
Stipulated Agreements 2243 and 2235 require Illinois Central Railroad Company to install warning devices at the Clinton St. and Freedom Drive highway-rail crossings.
The estimated cost of the signal design and installation at Clinton St. is $443,297, while the estimated cost of the signal design and installation at Freedom Drive is $373,406. ICC Staff recommends that the GCPF be used to pay up to 95% of the signal design and installation costs, not to exceed $421,132 for Clinton St., and not to exceed $354,736 for Freedom Drive. Illinois Central Railroad Company will pay all remaining costs as well as all future operating and maintenance costs for the new warning devices and their circuitry.
“Keeping pedestrians, drivers, and rail employees safe around railroad tracks is a top priority for the ICC. Automatic warning signs like the ones coming to the City of Decatur [and Belleville] are good news for the community and anyone else who uses the crossing,” said Carrigan.
Work at the Clinton St. and Freedom Drive highway-rail crossings is expected to be completed within 18 months of the order date.