Zorn reintroduces railroad crossing safety reform

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn has reintroduced legislation aimed at enhancing safety and traffic flow at rail crossings in Michigan.

“With railroads improving efficiency, more Michigan businesses and manufacturers are using them to transport products and materials,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “Although increased train usage can help reduce the wear and tear on our roads, it also can mean more frequent times of trains crossing roadways and longer periods of trains blocking roads — affecting access to local businesses and increasing both emergency response times and the chances for vehicles colliding with a train.

“The goal of these measures is to help local governments and the railroad industry work together to solve these long-standing safety and economic issues.”

Senate Bill 425 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.

SB 426 would establish a scoring system for determining which rail projects to fund, and SB 427 would create the Local Grade Separation Fund within the Department of Treasury to reserve funds for these projects.

According to preliminary Federal Railroad Administration statistics, Michigan ranked 15th worst in the nation in 2020 for the number of collisions, injuries and fatalities at highway-rail crossings.

“Even before the pandemic, many local agencies could not afford to make these railroad crossing improvements,” Zorn said. “This new program would help them improve driver safety by eliminating the chance of a deadly train-vehicle collision at the new separated crossings.”