Senate approves Zorn railroad crossing safety bill

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

“As our railroads improve their efficiency, they’re transporting more products and manufacturing materials in Michigan and across the country,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “While increased train usage can help reduce the wear and tear on our roads, longer trains can also block road crossings for longer periods — impacting emergency response times and local business bottom lines.

“This measure would help local governments and the railroad industry partner to resolve this long-standing problem while also improving safety.”

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 taking on 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 ranked 15th worst in the nation in 2018 for the number of collisions, injuries, and fatalities at highway-rail crossings.

“As more resources go into fixing the roads, many local agencies do not have the funds to make these railroad crossing improvements,” Zorn said. “This new program would help enhance our rail infrastructure and also improve the safety of Michigan drivers by reducing the chance of a car colliding with a train.”

SB 364 now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration.