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State approves funds to improve rail safety in central Thurston County
Dec. 16, 2010
Docket number: TR-101809
OLYMPIA, Wash. – State regulators today approved funds to improve safety near railroad tracks in central Thurston County.
The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) approved $14,000 from the Grade Crossing Protective Fund (GCPF) for Thurston County Public Works to replace and add signage near a railroad trestle located near Offutt Lake on Old Highway 99.
Old Highway 99 is a high volume, two-lane rural arterial roadway with 9,000 vehicles travelling on it everyday. BNSF operates trains over the railroad trestle that has a vertical clearance of 12 feet six inches. Between 100,000 and 400,000 tons of freight is transported annually by commercial motor vehicles on this portion of Old Highway 99.
The existing signage warns drivers about the height restriction of the trestle. In a recent three-year span, Thurston County Public Works crews were called 44 times to assist commercial trucks that were unable to pass under the trestle.
The proposed replacement and increased signage will result in a higher level of driver awareness of the restricted clearance of the railroad trestle. Drivers of commercial vehicles will be directed to alternate routes before they reach the trestle. The upgrades must be completed by June 15, 2011.
The Legislature created the GCPF in 1969 to provide money for safety measures designed to decrease the potential for accidents and fatalities at public and private crossings and along railroad tracks in the state. The UTC administers the fund.
The UTC is the state agency responsible for railroad safety, including approving new grade crossings and closing or altering existing rail crossings. The agency investigates train accidents, inspects public-railroad crossings, approves rail-safety improvement projects and manages Operation Lifesaver, a rail-safety education program in Washington and nationwide.
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