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Railroad intersection fix designed to curb impatient drivers

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The city of Spokane Valley, Wash., is using state grant money to protect a handful of drivers from their own impatience, The Spokesman-Review reports. Too many drivers have been weaving around railroad crossing arms after they've been lowered at Park Road just south of Trent Avenue. The result is a dangerous situation for them and for train crews.

Spokane Valley engineers
are designing a project to install concrete centerline barriers to keep drivers
from going around the crossing arms on the pair of adjacent BNSF lines. The
12-inch-high barriers will extend 100 feet in both directions and will be
topped with flexible markers known as "candles."

Drivers will have no choice
but to wait for the trains.

The city got $40,000 from
the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission following an
investigation by the WUTC staff. The commission staff said that in the past two
years, at least four drivers have been spotted going around the crossing bars
in the face of oncoming trains.

Ken Knutson, project
manager, said Spokane Valley was asked to apply for the grant.

"Approximately 50 trains
travel daily across both railroad crossings at Park Road at speeds up to 79
mph," the commission staff said in a news release.

BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas
said crossing safety long has been a problem for the railroad.

"People seem oblivious at
times that it’s a main line," he said.

It’s not just motorists.
Melonas said bike riders and pedestrians also are frequent violators. He said
train crews forward reports to BNSF officials who then work with the state, law
enforcement and railroad enforcement to reduce crossing violations. Locations
with the most violations may then qualify for grants to make improvements.

The grant money comes from
a grade crossing protection fund that was established by the Legislature in
1969. The WUTC also operates Operation Lifesaver in Washington, which is a
nationwide rail safety education program.

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