INDOT takes the lead on railroad crossings


Have you ever wondered why some railroad crossings in the county have crossing arms and lights, and others don’t?

The Indiana Department of Transportation has jurisdiction over all public railroad crossings, and has a coordinator in Indianapolis who determines which crossings get what.

“This person uses a combination of accident history, accident prediction, number of tracks, visibility, road traffic amount and train traffic amount to calculate which crossings get upgraded,” Jason Tiller, district communications director for INDOT’s Southwest District, said in an email.

Crossing improvements are funded through a federal aid program that offsets the cost to the state. The federal funds include $7.5 million a year to use for signalization at crossings across the state.

“This seems like a lot, but at a cost of $250k-$500k per crossing, it doesn’t go as far as you would think,” Tiller said.

Putting the cost in perspective, he added that INDOT’s Southwest District — which includes five sub-districts and 16 counties, including Dubois — has just under 1,000 public crossings, so the $7.5 million for the entire state goes quick.

State law requires all public railroad crossings — those not on private property — to at least have advance warning signs in addition to a crossbucks at the tracks, which is a sign that resembles a white “X.” Some public crossings also have train-activated warning devices, such as flashing lights and/or gates (crossing arms).

The amount of protection at railroad crossings across the state varies.

According to the INDOT website, the state has a total of 5,778 public crossings. Of those, 2,085 have flashing lights and gates to warn of oncoming trains. Public crossings that have only flashing lights total 1,185; 993 have crossbucks with stop signs; 1,381 only have crossbucks; and 134 are classified as “other.”

According to Federal Railroad Administration statistics, there were 2,105 railroad crossing collisions in the U.S. in 2017 that caused 274 fatalities and 807 injuries.

Operation Lifesaver, which provides rail safety education, compares the force of a 30-car freight train hitting a car to the force of a car crushing an aluminum soda can.

“It’s no contest,” the organization’s website says.

A past safety campaign by Operation Lifesaver and the Federal Railroad Administration advises the public: “See tracks? Think train.”

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