Highway Rail Crossing Safety Program Approved in Illinois

The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) recently approved its annual five-year Crossing Safety Improvement Program for implementing highway-rail safety capital projects for local roads across the state.

[Above photo by the ICC.]

For fiscal years 2022-2026, the ICC plans to spend $341 million from the Grade Crossing Protection Fund or GCPF to help local communities and railroads pay for safety improvements at nearly 500 crossing locations.

Photo by the ICC

The plan also allocates $78 million from the Rebuild Illinois capital program for the installation of grade crossing protection or grade separations not limited to local routes or other restrictions.

“Improving safety at public rail-highway crossings is a top priority for the ICC to protect lives and prevent train-related collisions,” explained ICC Chairman Carrie Zalewski in a statement. “The five year program we approved prioritizes and provides funding for important rail crossing safety projects in communities across Illinois.”

The plan prioritizes projects based on several criteria, including the relative safety of the existing crossing, volume and types of existing train and highway traffic. It also considers geographic location to ensure the agency makes project awards across the state as equitably as possible.

The GCPF – administered by the ICC, with the Illinois Department of Transportation disbursing the funds – helps local jurisdictions such as counties, townships, and municipalities pay for safety improvements at highway-rail crossings on local roads and streets only.

For Fiscal Year 2022, the ICC will consider projects requiring commitments from the GCPF totaling nearly $49.7 million and Rebuild Illinois funding totaling $34.5 million.

The agency noted that Illinois is second only to Texas in the total number of highway-rail crossings, with 7,557 public highway-rail grade crossings of which 749 are on state roads and 6,808 on local roads. There are also 2,699 public highway-rail grade-separated crossings via bridges in the state.

In 2020, the ICC said preliminary statistics indicate there were 82 collisions at public highway-rail crossings in Illinois, compared to 104 in 2019 – a 21.2 percent decrease. Total fatalities resulting from collisions at highway-rail crossings in Illinois decreased from 19 in 2019 to 17 in 2020, the agency added.

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