Weeks after federal officials called for improvements in grade-crossing safety nationwide, Indiana has stepped up with millions in state funding to help pay for life-saving projects.
Gov. Eric Holcomb, along with officials from Norfolk Southern, CSX and CN and other stakeholders on Thursday were in Gary to announce the awarding of more than $121 million in one-time, state matching funds for rail crossing safety improvements through the Indiana Department of Transportation‘s Local Trax matching grant.
Launched earlier this year, Local Trax provides funds for Indiana cities, towns and counties to competitively pursue high-priority railroad grade separations, crossing closures and other safety enhancements at railroad intersections with local roads.
The three Class Is combined are investing nearly $10 million for those projects at 12 locations around the state.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in November hosted an event in Washington to raise awareness of increasing fatalities and injuries from grade crossing and trespasser incidents, and called on the rail industry to make safety improvements.
“Through the Next Level Roads plan and with the support of the General Assembly, we’re making historic improvements to Indiana’s infrastructure from the first mile to the last mile,” Holcomb said. “Local Trax funding is targeted toward the highest priority rail crossings where accidents have been frequent, chronic congestion has frustrated drivers, and rail crossings have limited potential for development. These projects will help solve those challenges.”
The program requires local governments to provide only 20% of funding for land acquisition and construction, with the state providing the other 80%. The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) will fund and manage design and environmental work, as well as provide project management through design delivery, contract letting, construction and inspection.
“These projects are really important for mobility and safety” said Michael McClellan, vice president strategic planning for NS.
“Improving high-traffic rail crossings makes our communities safer, creates opportunities for economic development and boosts quality of life,” INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness said. “Through the Local Trax program, community leaders, the state and railroad companies come together as financial partners to improve aging railroad infrastructure throughout Indiana.”
“Indiana Railway Coalition members are proud to be partners in the Local Trax program,” Indiana Railway Coalition President David Hall said. The IRC includes six Class I and short line railroads operating in the state. “Our participation in Local Trax represents our commitment to safe rail operations and being good corporate neighbors in the communities where we operate. We appreciate the strong leadership provided by Gov. Holcomb, the General Assembly and the Department of Transportation in the development of this important program.”