State approves funds to improve safety at Whitman County railroad crossing
OLYMPIA, Wash. – State regulators today approved funds to improve the safety of a railroad crossing in Whitman County.
The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) approved $20,000 from the Grade Crossing Protective Fund (GCPF) to pay for warning devices at a railroad-highway grade crossing at the intersection of State Route 271 (SR-271) and the Washington & Idaho Railway’s (WIR) tracks near the city of Oakesdale.
The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) plans to use the funds to install new cantilever gates with LED flashing lights. In addition, WSDOT is proposing to replace the old-style bungalow with a newer model, install constant-warning train detection and replace all underground signal cable. UTC staff is facilitating the use of surplus equipment at this crossing.
These improvements will increase the overall safety at the crossing for motorists and pedestrians who will be able to rely on these active warning devices to determine if a train is approaching the crossing.
SR-271 is a two-lane roadway with a posted speed limit of 55 miles per hour. The average annual daily vehicle traffic through the crossing is about 710 vehicles, including six school buses.
The crossing is part of an established freight corridor, with 100,000 to 300,000 tons of freight hauled by truck per year on this roadway. Two freight trains per day operate at 25 miles per hour over the crossing. No passenger trains operate over the crossing.
State GCPF funding is limited to $20,000 for the project. The approximate cost of the project is $52,367.30. WSDOT will pay the difference of $32,367.30. The upgrades must be completed by June 30, 2013.
The Legislature created the GCPF in 1969 to provide money for safety measures designed to decrease the potential for accidents and fatalities at public and private crossings and along railroad tracks in the state. The UTC administers the fund.
The UTC is the state agency responsible for railroad safety, including approving new grade crossings and closing or altering existing rail crossings. The agency investigates train accidents, inspects public-railroad crossings, approves rail-safety improvement projects and manages Operation Lifesaver, a rail-safety education program in Washington and nationwide.