Plan to reduce danger at railroads

Update: 4:30 pm, 4/12/17, Wednesday 

ILLINOIS -- Cars and trains collided more than 100 times last year in the state. 25-people were killed and 36 were hurt. But, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) has plans to make railroad crossings safer throughout the state.

Like it or not, this sound is probably an unavoidable part of your daily commute. While that won't change anytime soon, ICC hopes to make your next run-in with a train much safer.

"We have a responsibility to improve public safety at these public crossings to try to identify where potential problems occur and eliminate those problems if we can."

For decades, ICC has poured millions of dollars into railroad infrastructure. Michael Stead says the latest five year improvement plan includes suggestions for more than 1,200 sites in the state.

Construction ranges from new automatic flashing light signals or crossing gates to entire bridges.

"Safest crossing, quite honestly, is the ones that don't exist, so if we can eliminate crossings along the way, in our opinion, that's a great safety plan."

Construction on this brand new underpass just finished this summer and people say it's already making a difference on their daily commute.

"The underpass that close to the hospital has increased access for ambulances or patients who are riding from the other side of the tracks."

While cities like Springfield can cough up the change on a new bridge, smaller communities struggle just for the basics.

"Around Effingham, we have several that don't even have lights or anything on them. They're just kind of there."

ICC takes care of the majority of the costs for these projects, however, some money comes from local taxpayer dollars.

"Think about the bottom line. It's going to cost this much more maybe on taxpayers or something, but it's going to save somebody's life."

ICC receives roughly $40 million a year in motor fuel tax money for the projects. To help rural communities stay safe, they can fund up to 95% of total costs.

In Champaign County, $74,000 is being spent on a project on Curtis Road, in Savoy, and a $7.8 million bridge on Olympian Drive, in Champaign.

Other pending projects in the county include a nearly $500,000 installation of automatic flashing light signals and gates at 2200 North, in Thomasboro. A similar project, cost $378 million, is pending for 500 North, in Tolono.

Original: 7:30 am, 4/12/17, Wednesday

ILLINOIS -- The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) announced a 5-year plan to improve 1,200 railroad crossings throughout the state. They say safety was the number one priority for this plan.

Improvements will include new automatic flashing light signals, crossing gate installations and new and improved vehicle and pedestrian bridges.

Crossings in Champaign, Springfield and Decatur are on the list to be fixed.

Collisions at railroads are not uncommon. Just last year there were 102 of them in Illinois. Those resulted in 25 deaths and 36 injuries. The ICC hopes the renovations reduce this amount. 

The majority of this project is funded by a motor fuel tax. The rest will be made up of local funds. The dollar amount has not yet been determined. Repairs will begin in 2018.


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