Wash. grants available for railroad safety improvements

Washington State regulators have announced the availability of grants to railroad companies, local governments and other agencies for railroad crossing safety improvement projects.

The Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) will accept applications for project funding that make safety improvements at railroad crossings or along railway tracks. Funding is provided through the state Grade Crossing Protective Fund (GCPF) and is limited to $20,000 for each project. Applications will be accepted through Jan. 1, 2015, and grant awards will be made as applications are received and approved by the commission.

Railroad safety improvement projects include installing gates and long-lasting, energy-efficient LED flashing lights. Past projects also include replacing old signs, upgrading train-warning devices, and erecting fences to prevent trespassing on railroad tracks. The UTC will consider and select proposals for funding based on the costs, the severity of the hazard, and the safety benefits resulting from the completed projects.

In 2011, the UTC awarded a $20,000 grant to Tacoma Rail to upgrade the warning signals at the intersection of 99th Street East and the railroad company’s tracks in the city of Tacoma. In 2009, the UTC awarded a $20,000 grant to Tacoma Rail to install fencing and gates under the Freight House Square Bridge spanning the area between East L and East G streets near the Tacoma Dome.

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 managers Operation Lifesaver, a rail-safety education program in Washington and nationwide.

More information is available online at utc.wa.gov/GCPF.