Oklahoma City, OK: State-wide crossing improvement programme underway

13 Oct

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) announced on October 12th, 2015, that the Oklahoma Transportation Commission has approved the first 10 of 300 possible level crossing improvement projects within a state-wide programme. In total the multi-year project is set to see USD100 million spent over the next three years. This is a big increase over the USD8 million typically invested in level crossing improvements to about 25 crossings annually.

Locations were chosen based on many factors including average daily traffic counts on the roadway and rail track, accident data, condition of the crossing and regional needs. Changes can include improved signage and active warning systems such as flashing lights, gates that will lower to help prevent traffic from entering the crossing and also audible alert devices.

“The upgrades will modernise and improve the visibility and safety of the rail crossings statewide,” ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson said. “This initiative will give drivers additional warning information of an approaching train which will help save lives and reduce the chances of a catastrophic accident.”

In 2014, Governor Mary Fallin joined with ODOT to announce the first-of-its-kind Rail Crossing Safety Initiative. ODOT is working  with rail companies and local governments to further refine the locations and needed improvements, develop project timetables and to reach agreements for the work to be performed and overseen by the rail companies at each location.

“This is truly a state-wide cooperative effort between the Governor’s office, multiple rail companies, local governments and state agencies all with the sole purpose of making our rail crossings safer,” Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley said. “We know there are still many needs to be addressed, and hope the momentum from this initiative will spur more safety improvements in the future.”

Over the next several months, finalised agreements are expected to be brought before the Oklahoma Transportation Commission. Once locations are approved, railroad companies will be able to apply to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission for approval of the specific improvements. Depending on the needs of the specific site, crossing improvements typically can cost an average of about USD350,000 per site.

Oklahoma has more than 3,700 at-grade rail crossings across the state. In 2014, 12 people were killed and 21 injured in accidents at rail crossings in Oklahoma, according to the Federal Railroad Administration and Operation Lifesaver Inc. The state ranks 20th nationally in highway-rail grade crossing collisions, according to Operation Lifesaver Inc.

The full list of crossings at which improvements may be made is available at: http://www.odot.org/newsmedia/press/2015/Rail_Crossing_Candidate_List_10_9_2015.pdf

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