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October 4, 2000

Governor Announces Railroad Grade Crossing Safety Improvements in Bourbonnais
Orders fast track for $3.5 million Illinois FIRST project

BOURBONNAIS -- Governor George H. Ryan today unveiled the details of work to improve safety at the railroad-highway crossing at St. George Road and Illinois Route 50 in Kankakee County.

A little more than a month ago, tragedy was averted as an Amtrak passenger train narrowly missed colliding with a truck carrying steel that was straddling the tracks. On March 15, 1999, the Amtrak City of New Orleans train collided with a truck carrying steel at a crossing nearby, killing 11 people and injuring 100 more.

"We were fortunate to avoid another accident," Ryan said. "But we cannot take any chances that we will be able to avoid collision in the future. Through the Illinois FIRST program, we are able to ensure a permanent solution to this problem."

The Illinois FIRST program provides $3.5 million for permanent traffic signals and relocating Illinois Route 50 east of the existing alignment. The relocated road at the intersection with St. George Road will be approximately 550 feet from the existing intersection. Preliminary engineering is underway and the acquisition of land for the improvement will begin next year. If all the necessary right-of-way can be acquired, construction could start in the summer of 2001.

Until the permanent changes can be implemented, Ryan has ordered temporary safety measures be put in place.

"This crossing has been a concern and I have instructed the Department of Transportation and the Illinois Commerce Commission to make immediate safety improvements," Ryan added. "And I have asked that they do whatever it takes to speed up the work on the long term solution so we can have permanent changes within 2 years." The immediate safety upgrades, which are expected to be completed by October 23, include:

  • installation of three traffic signals for motorists eastbound on St. George Road. These signals, located just prior to the railroad tracks, will be activated by the train detection system that triggers the railroad crossing gates to keep the area between the railroad tracks and Illinois Route 50 clear. The signals also will operate in the normal fashion to stop traffic west of the tracks as an additional safeguard to prevent vehicles from crossing into the 50-foot area between the tracks and road.

  • installation of temporary traffic signals on Illinois Route 50 that will include signals to assist motorists making left turns. The temporary signals will be mounted on overhead cable spanning each leg of the intersection. These signals also will be interconnected with railroad warning devices to stop all cars and trucks allowing all eastbound vehicles to clear the tracks.

  • installation of a special sign on the overhead spans that will activate with a lighted message "no right turn" prohibiting motorists on Illinois Route 50 from turning west onto St. George Road toward the tracks when a train is approaching.

  • installation of special pavement markings also will be placed on the eastbound St. George Road between the Illinois Route 50 intersection and tracks warning motorists not to stop in the area between the railroad tracks and Illinois Route 50.

The $50,000 cost for the interim changes also will be paid from the Illinois FIRST funds.


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