TOPEKA (KSNT) – Federal officials say millions of dollars in funds have been awarded to Kansas for the purpose of making its railways safer.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) said in a press release that more than $27.5 million is now available to Kansas in Railroad Crossing Elimination (RCE) Grant Program funds. This program provides more than $570 million in funds for 63 projects in 32 states. This latest round of funding is expected to address railroad safety at more than 400 crossings across the country.

The DOT’s press release went on to say that the FRA is addressing complaints from citizens, states and localities regarding the delays and disruptions caused by frequently blocked crossings that force residents to wait hours at intersections or take detours. The delays can also prevent first responders from getting to emergency situations quickly.

The DOT’s press release states that more than 2,000 collisions occurred at highway-rail crossings in the U.S. last year alone and more than 30,000 reports were received of blocked crossings by the FRA.

“The Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program is another critical tool that FRA is using to make a lasting impact on the safety and transportation needs of communities nationwide,” said FRA Administrator Amit Bose. “With these project selections and the many more that are to come, we will save lives and reshape infrastructure in ways that allow individuals to move through their neighborhoods seamlessly and safely.”

The three projects receiving funds through the RCE in Kansas include:

  • Corridor Improvement project for 15 street crossings with BNSF Railroad within the City of Emporia ($601,000).
    • This corridor study is set to evaluate solutions to eliminate 12 at-grade crossings along a two-mile section of BNSF’s Emporia subdivision. The corridor averages 82 daily train crossings. BNSF will partner with the City of Emporia during this study with both organizations contributing a 50% total non-federal match.
  • 119th Street, Woodland to Northgate – BNSF separation and crossing elimination safety improvement project ($17,987,495).
    • This project is set to support construction to eliminate an at-grade crossing at Woodland Road and Northgate Street in Olathe and build a road overpass with a pedestrian sidewalk spanning over BNSF Railway’s rail line. The new structure will make routes to schools and neighborhoods safer for commuters, create a new bike/pedestrian connection to a trail system and make a direct connection to I-35 and K-7 Highway. Both the City of Olathe and the Johnson County Assistance Road System fund will contribute a 53% non-federal match.
  • Grade crossing closures and construction of grade-separated highway overpass on the BNSF Southern Transcon main line ($8,864,725).
    • This project is set to fund development and construction to eliminate all six grade crossings along the BNSF Railway in the City of Wellington. This will create a “sealed corridor” with no train vehicle interaction or exposure. This route carries more than 90 trains daily with trains occupying crossing for 30-40% of the day. This project will also make a grade-separated highway overpass with pedestrian accommodations. The City of Wellington and BNSF Railway will contribute a 36% non-federal match.

To learn more about the RCE Program, click here.