PAXTON — The Illinois Commerce Commission has released a five-year plan for completing rail crossing safety improvement projects in communities across Illinois — and one major project will be completed locally.
Between 2020 and 2024, the ICC is expected to spend more than $250 million from the Grade Crossing Protection Fund (GCPF) to help communities and railroads pay for safety improvements at nearly 800 crossing locations statewide.
The five-year plan proposes to provide assistance from the GCPF to help cover the cost of 17 highway-rail bridge projects, four pedestrian-rail bridge projects, 253 at-grade crossing warning device projects, and low-cost improvements at an estimated 500 crossing locations.
In fiscal year 2020, the ICC will consider projects requiring commitments from the GCPF totaling nearly $50 million, including more than $28 million for bridge projects.
Among the projects proposed for fiscal year 2020 is a $396,000 project to help the city of Paxton reconstruct roadway approaches, install automatic flashing light signals and install roadway gates at the 3600 North highway-rail grade crossing of the Illinois Central Railroad’s tracks in Champaign County.
The ICC receives numerous requests from local communities and railroads for assistance from the GCPF for safety improvements at public highway-rail crossings. A number of factors are considered when prioritizing projects such as collision history, traffic volume, engineering requirements and geographical location. The ICC also places a high priority on crossings in rail corridors where conventional speed passenger trains operate, and locations where grade crossing blockages cause substantial motorists or emergency vehicle delays, or a heightened risk for threat of train/vehicle collisions.
The recommendations in the report assume that local funding matches will be available in a timely manner. In the event they are not, the Rail Safety Section staff may recommend the ICC reallocate GCPF assistance for those projects to another fiscal year.
In 2018, preliminary statistics indicate there were 82 collisions at public crossings in Illinois, compared with 88 in 2017, a decrease of 6.8%. About 31.7% — 26 of 82 — of all collisions in 2018 involved cars driving into the side of trains. Total fatalities resulting from collisions at highway-rail crossings in Illinois decreased from 25 in 2017 to 19 in 2018.