I agree with Joseph Reichert that lives are more important than trains, but I believe his solution, “Illinois should lead the way for the country to require overpasses for most, if not all, train crossings over roads and highways,” is not fiscally realistic.
According to the Federal Railway Administration, the United States has at least 209,308 railroad crossings, approximately 129,626 of which are on public roads. The nation’s road and bridge infrastructure is already aging and difficult to maintain; adding a large number of overpasses, many of which would be built in low-traffic rural areas, would compound road maintenance challenges and strain already limited budgets, particularly in a cash-strapped state like Illinois. That could lead to the closure of many grade crossings altogether to support the cost of building and maintaining fewer overpasses, which would further limit the road network emergency vehicles can use. Additionally, these overpasses would have to be larger (and even more expensive) than current roads in many areas because of the increased traffic that would be forced to use those routes.
It would also be very difficult to build overpasses for tracks located in the middle of an already cramped downtown area like O’Fallon.
A solution to getting emergency vehicles past stopped trains might be to require a grade crossing or overpass every so many miles, providing more route options. This would be much less expensive than overpasses replacing every grade crossing.
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I applaud Reichert’s concern for safety. I just don’t think his proposal is affordable.