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In today’s transportation world, railroads are becoming increasingly popular for both passengers and goods. Mainers have witnessed the recent introduction of Amtrak service to Portland and more Maine destinations are planned for the future. If your community has a railroad crossing on any of your local roads, you should be aware of who is responsible for railroad maintenance. A properly maintained railroad crossing can help prevent accidents from occurring and save lives.
When a railroad crosses a municipally maintained road, three different parties become responsible for maintenance: the Railroad Company, the State of Maine, and the Municipality.
Proper maintenance is a year round responsibility for railroad crossings. Municipalities should include railroad crossings on their annual road striping maintenance plan, along with crosswalks or centerline work. Towns need to be prepared to clear trees and brush when necessary at various crossings, as well. If problems occur with the track itself or the area within the tracks, contact the Railroad company immediately. Working together with your railroad company and DOT will help provide safer crossings.
Train speed is an issue in some communities. This is particularly true regarding poor visibility crossings, downtown areas, and school zones. In order for trains to be effective and competitive, train services need to operate at optimum speeds. The MDOT currently has the authority to set rail speed limits at railroad crossings. Outside of crossings, the Railroad Company can run as fast as the track conditions allow.
If a community becomes concerned over speed, it can contact the MDOT to discuss the issue. Crossing improvements, such as installing new signals or crossbucks, could help alleviate safety concerns and allow trains to move at optimum speed. Since rail use is an interstate commerce issue, there has been discussion whether federal law will override Maine’s speed setting authority.
The DOT manages a Grade Crossing Safety Improvement Program. In this program, funds are spent on signal installation/upgrades for improvements to at-grade crossings. Funding for this program is made available every two years. There are about 620 active grade crossings in Maine, so competition is pretty fierce (Approx. 18 projects get funded every two years). If you would like more information on this, please contact Nathan Moulton at 624-3560.
This page last updated on 10/7/13
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