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Washington state approves funds for BNSF crossing updates

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission approved $22,964 in grants to make safety improvements to high-risk grade crossings along an oil train route in Skamania and Klickitat counties. The commission approved the Grade Crossing Protective Fund grants at the request of BNSF Railway Co., which asked for the amount to upgrade crossings at Butler Road in Skamania County and Walnut Street in the city of Bingen. Each crossing has been identified by the UTC as an under-protected crossing along an oil route, commission officials said in a press release. BNSF intends to make short-term improvements at the crossings, which currently are protected by flashing light signals, crossbucks and advanced warning signs. The upgrades will include changing incandescent to LED flashing lights to improve the overall safety at the crossing by providing better visibility for drivers and pedestrians. The projects will improve safety until the crossings can be upgraded to include gates, concrete crossing surfaces, and bungalow equipment can be moved to increase sight distance. Butler Road is a two-lane road with a 25 mph speed limit. An average of 100 vehicles use the two-track crossing daily. Thirty freight trains and two passenger trains traveling 30 mph use the mainline track daily. Walnut Street is also is a two-lane road with a speed limit of 25 miles per hour. An average of 850 vehicles use the three-track crossing daily. Currently, 30 freight trains and two passenger trains traveling 45 mph use the track each day. The Butler Road project will cost $24,000. The commission will provide $8,462 and the railroad will contribute more than $15,000. The Walnut Street project cost will be $26,259; the commission will fund about $14,500 and the railroad will fund at least $11,000. The upgrades at both crossings must be completed by Feb. 28, 2017.

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