Thursday, June 23, 2011

Transportation Improvement Program: Canyon County Rail Safety Projects

As I discussed in my last post, the DRAFT Regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for Ada and Canyon Counties for fiscal years 2012 - 2016 is open for public comment through Monday, July 25, 2011. Please take a few moments to look at the documents and submit your comments.

This is my second in a series of blogs highlighting projects in the TIP. My focus today is on three projects to improve safety at rail crossings in Canyon County – one each on Farmway Road, Peckham Road, and Allendale Road.

In total, these three projects are forecast to cost just under $500,000, which makes them among the smaller projects in the TIP. However, the safety benefits will be significant.

The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) asked local highway districts to submit requests for funding for rail crossings that needed safety improvements. Canyon Highway District and Golden Gate Highway District in Canyon County both responded with requests for improvements. Farmway Road falls under the jurisdiction of Canyon Highway District and Peckham and Allendale Roads are in the Golden Gate Highway District.

All three railroad crossings receive significant truck traffic; the heavy loads from the trucks cause more wear and tear on the road surface than regular auto traffic. In addition, these are all in rural areas, so traffic is moving faster than in more populated areas.

Currently, each of these crossings is built of asphalt. The truck traffic across the asphalt causes it to deteriorate and become rough or bumpy. The rough road where vehicles cross the railroad tracks can lead to a loss of vehicle control or even to a vehicle becoming stranded on the tracks.

The projects will all undergo a similar “fix” to make the crossing smoother, which will increase safety. Boise Valley Railroad and the local highway districts will rebuild the “planking” — the road surface two feet on each side of the rail and in between the rails — to create a smoother transition between the rail area and the roadway. The new planking will be concrete, instead of the current asphalt, which will create a smoother surface. An additional long-term benefit of the concrete is that it is more durable, which will reduce future maintenance costs for the local highway districts. In addition to the new “planking,” railroad signals and gates will be added at the Farmway Road crossing.

These projects are just a small sample of what you will find budgeted for in the TIP. Take a moment to check it out and submit your comments.

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Community Planning Association of Southwest Idaho

COMPASS is the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization responsible for transportation planning in Ada and Canyon Counties. The COMPASS Board comprises 39 members representing the cities, counties, highway districts, educational institutions, state agencies, and other entities within the two counties. COMPASS plays an important role in making decisions about future long-range transportation needs in the Treasure Valley, taking into consideration environmental and economic factors that affect the quality of life.