light technology warns drivers to stay
State-of-the-art lights at a railroad crossing on heavily traveled Milwaukee Street in Boise will improve the safety of motorists and increase railroad efficiency, according to ITD and the Ada County Highway District.
The red lights, built into new individual railroad crossing panels, are circular in design and are placed slightly above ground on the north and south side of Idaho Northern Pacific Railroad's track that is close to and parallels Franklin Road. Activated Oct. 6, the lights are designed to keep motorists from stopping on the track.
"We're hoping to change driver behavior at that crossing," said Joe Peagler, ITD’s rail-highway safety coordinator. "It's a very busy intersection and the trains slow down to 5 miles per hour because people stop on the tracks."
Peagler said an average of two trains use the track each day, and that while trains are allowed to travel at 25 miles per hour, they reduce their speed because of the number of cars that block the tracks. Since 1991 four collisions have been recorded at the crossing because motorists failed to stop before reaching the tracks.
Two of those collisions involved injuries. And Peagler said there are hundreds of near misses annually at the crossing, used by an average of 30,000 cars each day.
The project is a joint effort of Idaho Northern Pacific Railroad, Ada County Highway District and ITD. Idaho Northern installed the crossing panels with technical help from Transpo, the company that makes the panels. Idaho Sand & Gravel also worked on the project.
The crossing panels, made of polymer concrete, are designed to be skid-resistant while offering high load-carrying capacity. The Milwaukee crossing is just the fourth in the United States to have the new panels. Nebraska has the other three. Overhead signal lights at the crossing will remain as well.
Peagler said that because of the width of Milwaukee at the railroad track, crossing arms would be too long for practical use.
The project, which will cost about $300,000, was funded by Idaho's rail-grade crossing protection fund.