Railroad Safety Plan Targets $9.4 Million for 107th District: Road Repairs, Flashing Lights & Gates

Photo credit: Illinois Commerce Commission

State Representative Blaine Wilhour announced today that the Illinois Commerce Commission has identified twenty-six projects around the 107th District to receive funding for the “Crossing Safety Improvement Program.” These projects over the next five years (2019-2024) will reconstruct roadway approaches, install automatic flashing light signals and install roadway gates.

“These safety projects are aimed at reducing collisions and will help save lives,” commented Rep. Blaine Wilhour. “The communities receiving grants include Alma, Centralia, Effingham, Farina, Hagerstown, Kell, Kinmundy, Odin, Salem, Smithboro, Sorento, St. Elmo, St. Peter, Teutopolis, Vandalia, and Wamac.”

The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) has the statutory responsibility to improve safety at public highway-rail crossings in the State of Illinois.  Currently, there are 7,595 highway-rail grade crossings in Illinois, of which 763 are on state roads, and 6,832 are on local roads.  Nationally, Illinois is second only to Texas in the total number of highway-rail crossings.

The ICC orders safety improvements at public highway-rail crossings on the local road system, with the cost of such improvements paid by the state, the railroads, and local governments.  On state roads, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) pays the majority of the costs through the State Road Fund. For local roads, the Grade Crossing Protection Fund (GCPF) was created to pay the majority of the costs of improvements.

Beginning with Fiscal Year 2010, each month state motor fuel tax receipts is transferred from the Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) fund to the Grade Crossing Protection Fund.  This amount provides the GCPF with $39 million annually for safety improvements.  The GCPF is typically used to help pay for projects such as  Warning Device Upgrades; Grade Separations – New and Reconstructed and Vertical Clearance Improvements; Pedestrian Grade Separations to construct bridges to carry pedestrian/bicycle traffic over or under railroad tracks; Interconnects and synchronizing of warning signals; Highway Approaches; Connecting Roads; Remote Monitoring Devices; and even Crossing Closures.

In 2018, preliminary statistics indicate there were 82 collisions at public crossings in Illinois, compared to 88 in 2017, a decrease of 6.8 percent. Total fatalities resulting from collisions at highway-rail crossings in Illinois decreased from 25 in 2017 to 19 in 2018.