Highland News Leader

Railroad crossing in Highland will soon have traffic signal

A traffic signal will soon be set up near the railroad crossing at Frank Watson Boulevard in Highland, a project 10 years in the making.

City Manager Mark Latham confirmed the city has negotiated with the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Illinois Commerce Commission and CSX Railroad to get signals at the point where Illinois 40 and Frank Watson intersect near the railroad tracks.

“Since that intersection is so close to the railroad, they (all) have to be heavily involved,” Latham said.

The Illinois Commerce Commission is the primary regulatory agency for railroads, and just to get a permit from them to proceed with the traffic signal cost the city $50,000, Latham said.

“We are actually doing pretty well,” he said.

When city officials first were looking at what the cost would be, the estimate was $546,000. Latham said they requested funding from the ICC and they agreed to cover $425,000 of it.

The cost is due to the intricacies of tying the signal in to the railroad’s system, Latham said.

“They’re going to install a signal that stops traffic going north on Hemlock before you get to the rail,” he said.

That crossing sees an average of 11 trains per day, according to the Illinois Commerce Commission. The trains are moving an average of 60 mph at the crossing, while the speed limit on Illinois 40 is 55 mph.

Latham said there have been a number of accidents, though no fatalities so far.

“This has been an ongoing issue for our community,” he said. “We’re very fortunate that there have been no fatal accidents, but there have been a lot of accidents.”

More than $1 million was spent on widening the roads, he said, but signals weren’t warranted under IDOT rules.

“They finally agreed that if we would pay for it, they’d put it in,” Latham said.

The time frame for the signal construction is not yet firm, but would be announced at the next city council meeting, Latham said.