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Washington panel OKs grants for crossing improvements

The Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) last week approved $52,520 in rail-safety grants for crossing improvements in Tonasket and Yakima County. The UTC approved a $44,000 grant from the Grade Crossing Protective Fund at the request of Cascade and Columbia River Railroad. The grant will be used to fund upgrades to warning signals at a grade crossing located at the intersection of 4th Street and the short line's tracks, UTC officials said in a press release. Project details include replacing outdated train detection equipment, replacing batteries and battery chargers, installing new crossing gates, and upgrading flashing lights to LEDs. The upgrades are designed to improve safety by providing reliable train detection and increasing the visibility of railroad signals, UTC officials said. An average of 3,042 vehicles use the 4th Street crossing daily, including eight school buses. The crossing is part of an established truck route, with commercial vehicles making up 3 percent of the site's daily traffic. One freight train traveling 25 mph uses the crossing each week. Cascade & Columbia will pay project costs outside of the grant funds. In Yakima County, UTC approved county officials' request of three grants for $2,840 each to replace existing incandescent flashing lights with LEDs at Yakima Central Railway crossings on Barkes, Lateral A and Wesley roads. The upgrades are aimed at improving safety by improving visibility for drivers and pedestrians at the crossings. Currently, four freight trains are traveling 20 to 25 mph through the crossings.

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