Senate approves Zorn railroad crossing safety reform

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

“This is about protecting Michigan drivers as more businesses and manufacturers look at using trains to efficiently transport their products and materials,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “While using trains more can help reduce the wear and tear on our roads, it also can mean more frequent train crossings and longer delays caused by trains blocking roadways.

“This new program would help local governments and the railroad industry work together to enhance safety at railroad crossings, which could drastically reduce or virtually eliminate the chance of a deadly train-vehicle collision and improve emergency response times.”

Senate Bill 425 would create a new Local Grade Separation Grant Program to provide state matching funds for local governments and the rail industry to transform a local roadway crossing so that road traffic would travel either over or under the railroad. The program would also consider projects that improve traffic at the rail crossing without a full grade separation. SB 427 would create the Local Grade Separation Fund to reserve funds for these projects.

Michigan has over 4,000 rail crossings with public highways within the state, and in 2020, was ranked the 15th worst in the nation for the total number of collisions, injuries, and fatalities at highway-rail crossings.

In July, the Senate approved SB 529, a $1.6 billion transportation infrastructure funding plan that would use $126 million in federal recovery funds to improve safety at several intersections between railways and roadways.