Panel OKs Zorn bill to improve railroad crossing safety

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Wednesday approved Sen. Dale Zorn’s legislation to enhance safety and traffic flow at rail crossings.

“As the railroad industry becomes more efficient, manufacturers are increasingly looking at rail to transport their products and bring in needed materials,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “As result, trains will increase in length and block road crossings for longer periods of time. That is bad for everyone, especially our first responders for whom time is critical and local businesses who lose customers as drivers avoid blocked crossings.

“This legislation will help fix those problems and, most importantly, improve the safety of Michigan drivers by reducing the chance of a collision with a train.”

Senate Bill 364 would create a new Local Grade Separation Grant Program to provide state matching funds for local governments and the rail industry interested in pursuing high-priority railroad grade separations on local roads. The funds would be used to transform a crossing so that road traffic would travel either over or under the railroad.

According to the Michigan Railroads Association, Michigan ranks 15th worst in the nation for the number of collisions, injuries, and fatalities at highway-rail crossings.

“Many local agencies do not have the funds to make these improvements as more resources go toward fixing our local roads,” Zorn said. “My bill is modeled after a successful program in Indiana to create partnerships between the state, local governments and the railroad industry to resolve this long-standing infrastructure issue.”

SB 364 now heads to the full Senate for consideration.