State OKs funds to improve safety at Tacoma railroad crossing

Washington State regulators today approved funding to improve safety at a railroad crossing in Tacoma. The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) approved $20,000 from the Grade Crossing Protective Fund (GCPF) to Tacoma Rail to upgrade the warning signals at the intersection of 99th St. E. and the railroad company’s tracks in the city of Tacoma.

Tacoma Rail plans to use the funds to install long-lasting, energy-efficient flashing LED lights (light-emitting diodes) and motion-sensing train detection at the rail crossing. The railroad also will add pedestrian bells to both signal masts and replace the cross-buck signs. The total estimated cost of the project is $27,095. State GCPF funding is limited to $20,000.

Ninety-ninth Street East is a two-lane road with an average of 3,375 vehicles crossing the railroad tracks each day. The project must be completed by June 15.

The Legislature created the GCPF in 1969 to provide money for safety measures designed to decrease the potential for accidents and fatalities at public and private crossings and along railroad tracks in the state. The UTC administers the fund.

The UTC is the state agency responsible for railroad safety, including approving new grade crossings and closing or altering existing rail crossings. The agency investigates train accidents, inspects public-railroad crossings, approves rail-safety improvement projects and manages Operation Lifesaver, a rail-safety education program in Washington and nationwide.