RR safety features finally arrive

Print Article

Upgrades installed at Post Falls crossings, more planned in Athol

By BRIAN WALKER

Staff Writer

POST FALLS — Nearly a year to the day after a 15-year-old girl was killed during a car-train collision in Post Falls, close to $1 million in improvements have been installed at an intersection notorious for such accidents.

Union Pacific’s crossing on Spokane Street south of Prairie Avenue now has $925,000 worth of improvements that include lighted gates that drop before a train arrives, bells and both flashers and railroad crossing signs on the sides of the intersection and above it.

Mayor Ron Jacobson said he was on a Sunday walk when he was relieved to see workers at the intersection installing the crossing arms.

"This crossing is a concern, especially in light of the fatal accident," he said. "The city is committed to working with the railroad to improve the crossings in our jurisdiction."

Kootenai County, mostly the Rathdrum Prairie where both UP and BNSF Railway have lines, has led the state in vehicle-train collisions in recent years.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, there were 29 total such accidents in Kootenai County from 2007 to 2017. Those accidents have resulted in six fatalities, including Post Falls High student Mikelli Villaseñor last year, and seven injuries.

The Idaho Transportation Department administers funding from the Federal Rail Authority to local jurisdictions to support safety improvements at railroad crossings. Each year the FRA provides ITD with $1.9 million for projects statewide, while ITD provides a 10 percent match on top of that.

On the Spokane Street project, the city this spring will also make nearly $30,000 in improvements such as curbs, a bike trail and road widening on the west side of the road.

Another Post Falls intersection on UP’s line that recently received $564,000 in improvements was on Grange Avenue between Chase Road and Spokane Street. The city and the Whiskey Flats subdivision developer will also have curbs, sidewalks and an asphalt road completed this spring to further enhance both motorized and non-motorized safety. The city’s portion is under $10,000.

UP’s intersection at Watkins Avenue in Athol will receive $275,000 in improvements this year. Construction is pending coordination with UP by ITD.

"The projects all convert passive crossings into active crossings," said Megan Sausser, ITD public information specialist.

Passive crossings use road markings and stop signs to alert drivers. Active crossings use gates, lights, signs and road markings to alert travelers.

Crossings are maintained through cooperation between railroad operators, city and county officials and ITD engineers.

Sausser explained why it seems it take so long for railroad crossing improvements to be made.

"Since improvements for the crossings are constructed with federal funds, ITD must program these projects out seven years," she said. "Once improvements are turned into a programmed project, they typically cannot be accelerated, even if there was a recent fatality at the site."

Sausser said projects go into a program as a priority for ITD after near-miss and crash data and train volumes are analyzed, but they may not be prioritized equally by the railroad.

"Usually when projects are within two years of construction, ITD meets with the railroad to start discussions about design," she said. "Once an agreement is signed, the railroad orders equipment and schedules the work. Railroad personnel, not ITD personnel, construct the actual improvements."

Justin Jacobs, UP spokesman, said safety improvements take time due to all of the jurisdictions involved.

"Multiple partners have to come together to find a solution," he said. "But, at the end of the day, we want everybody to get home safe to their families."

Local officials say they have received a lot calls of concern from residents about the collisions. However, while the improvements are intended to reduce such accidents, factors such as cost and the total number of intersections make it impossible to implement them at all areas of concern.

Of the 1,274 crossings in Idaho, 58 are in Kootenai County.

Railroad and local officials warn drivers to be vigilant at all intersections — regardless of the type of safety features that exist.

"We all need to be more aware of our surroundings as drivers and to drive defensively," Post Falls City Councilman Alan Wolfe said. "All the precautions we can build cannot save us from our own inattentiveness."

BNSF Railway Spokesman Gus Melonas added: "Trains can move on any track at any time in both directions. Be aware of train activity at all times (regardless of what safety features exist)."

Print Article

Read More Local News

‘Freedom Tree’ a fire casualty

January 23, 2019 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press By BRIAN WALKER Staff Writer ATHOL — From Jeff May's small pile of art salvaged from Monday's fire that destroyed the carver's shop and studio, a one-word metal piece stood out. “Grateful,” it s...

Comments

Read More

Prairie now, NExA later

January 23, 2019 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press By JUDD WILSON Staff writer COEUR d’ALENE — Trustees for the Coeur d’Alene School District voted unanimously Tuesday night to move forward with building a new elementary school on Prairie Avenue....

Comments

Read More

Tale of the trails Cd’A focuses on taking care of popular paths

January 23, 2019 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press COEUR d’ALENE — With several new walking and bicycle trails being added to the city’s 23-mile trail repertoire, the City Council this month approved a plan for a $75,000 piece of equipment to maintai...

Comments

Read More

Rathdrum projects planned amid record growth

January 23, 2019 at 5:00 am | Coeur d'Alene Press By BRIAN WALKER Staff Writer RATHDRUM — Rathdrum had record growth in 2018, making next year's start to widening Highway 41 and other improvement projects even more paramount. In his State of th...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(208) 664-8176
215 N. Second St
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83814

©2019 The Coeur d'Alene Press Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X