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Local Editorials

SVM EDITORIAL: More warnings at Illinois rail crossings coming; heed them

Safety improvements at railroad crossings should help save lives, if the motoring public pays them heed. Distracted drivers have less of a chance of noticing warning signals. We urge everyone to please pay attention behind the wheel.

It was a short article in one of last week’s papers, but an important one.

“State spending $200M to improve rail crossings,” the headline stated.

As the accompanying Associated Press story explained, the Illinois Commerce Commission announced a crossing safety improvement program to spend nearly $200 million during the next 5 years to make safety improvements at more than 700 rail crossings across the state.

The article mentioned that in fiscal year 2019, 17 projects would be tackled across the counties that comprise the Sauk Valley.

We looked up the locations of those FY19 projects, and here they are:

• Install automatic flashing light signals and gates: in Steward at Steward Road; in Chana on Fowler, Skare, Hemstock, Grist Mill and Stone Hill roads; in Polo at North Union Road; in Byron at Mill Road; in Lanark at Grange Road; in Neponset at County Road 100 E; and in Tiskilwa at County Road 1790 E.

• Reconstruct approaches; install automatic flashing light signals and gates: in Davis Junction at Blackwood Road; and in Mineral at Lincoln and Central streets.

• Construct grade separation and close public crossing: in Rochelle at First Avenue.

• Reconstruct crossing surface: in Oregon at South Blackhawk Road.

• Reconstruct grade separation: in Milledgeville at Ideal Road.

A primary concern of state government is the safety of its citizens, and the continued occurrence of rail crossing deaths is troubling. In 2016, 20 people were killed in Illinois when their vehicles were struck by trains at a crossing. In 2017, that tragic figure rose to 26 fatalities.

State government is investing a lot of money to improve systems to warn motorists of approaching trains.

We appreciate that investment.

But any warning system is of little use if the public pays it no heed.

Drivers distracted by smartphones or other things can still blow right through flashing signals and lowered crossing gates and be struck by a train, which no one wants to see happen.

This is a plea to bring an end to distracted driving so that millions of dollars worth of warning systems will have their intended effect – saving lives at railroad crossings.

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