OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla._More than 300 railroad crossings over highways, city streets and county roads are being evaluated for an upgrade.
The Oklahoma Depart of Transportation is putting railroad crossings on a fast track for improvements and the first 10 were given the green light on Monday, October 12. Those locations, including some in Tillman and Jackson counties, 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.
Approximately $100 million is expected to be spent on the crossing upgrades over the next three years; the funding for the projects comes from the recent sale of the Sooner Sub line, dedicated ODOT safety funds and other partners.
"The upgrades will modernize 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."
Finalized agreements are expected to be brought before the Oklahoma Transportation Commission over the next several months. Once the locations are approved, railroad companies will then be able to apply for specific improvements. Improvements typically cost around $350,000 per site, depending on the upgrades each location needs. Previously, ODOT was only able to improve about 25 crossings per year using allotted funding.
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 following is a list of some of the sites being evaluated for improvement: