Rail crossings are common sites for train accidents. They can occur due to a failure of safety equipment such as crossing gates, warning lights and traffic control devices. The Illinois Commerce Commission is responsible for rail safety in Illinois. The ICC also tracks statistics on Illinois train accidents.
Illinois has more than 8,400 rail crossings, more than any other state except Texas. This includes 2,700 public bridge crossings and 163 private bridge crossings. Illinois railways also have 485 pedestrian crossings, including 85 bridge crossings for pedestrians.
The ICC administers safety improvements at public rail crossings, which are paid for by the state. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) uses the State Road Fund to make most of the repairs on state roads, while it maintains local roads with the Grade Crossing Protection Fund. IDOT cannot use the latter fund to improve rail crossings on any state roads. The GCPF receives $2.25 million each month from state motor fuel taxes, providing $27 million per year for improving rail crossings on local roads.
Rail Safety Statistics
The Chicago area has about 1,200 moving trains per day and about 9.5 million people. This area had 641 railroad accidents from 2006 to 2011, according to the Chicago Daily Herald. This includes train collisions with vehicles and pedestrians, some of which were suicides. The Chicago area averaged more than two rail incidents per week, resulting in about three fatalities per month.
Safety advocates are considering a number of engineering solutions to reduce the frequency of train accidents. These solutions often involve separating vehicles and pedestrians from moving trains. A quad gate prevents drivers from going around the lowered barriers at a railway crossing. Tunnels and overpasses for pedestrians keep pedestrians from walking across railroad tracks.
Additional methods of reducing the number of accidents at railroad crossings include closing crossings that are not worth upgrading to current safety requirements. More train warning systems are also needed to alert pedestrians to the approach of a second train, especially when another train is already in the station.
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