OLYMPIA, Wash. – State regulators today approved funds to improve the safety of two railroad crossings in the Spokane Valley.
The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) approved $40,000 from the state’s Grade Crossing Protective Fund (GCPF) to pay for two projects related to railroad crossing safety in the city of Spokane Valley.
Spokane Valley will install median barriers at two public railroad crossings located within 100 feet of each other on Vista Rd. Installation of median barriers on both approaches and between the crossings will reduce the number of vehicles driving around the lowered crossing gates.
BNSF Railway Co. (BNSF) crews have reported six incidents in the last five years of close calls resulting from motorists driving around lowered gates at these crossings. While there have not been any accidents recently, three accidents have been recorded at the crossings since 1975, including a fatality in 1981.
About 50 trains travel over both crossings on a daily basis, at speeds of up to 79 miles per hour. There are two mainline tracks at these crossings and this is a primary east-west corridor for BNSF between Seattle and Chicago.
Vista Rd. is a two-lane main arterial that carries about 2,400 vehicles per day, with commercial traffic representing about 9 percent of the vehicles. School buses also frequently use the crossings, as West Valley High School is located a quarter of a mile north of the crossings.
The total project costs are estimated at $50,750 with Spokane Valley paying for all costs exceeding $40,000. The upgrades must be completed by Dec. 31, 2014.
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.