Oklahoma to invest $100 million in railroad crossings

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ADA, Okla.- Ada’s “Krazy Korner,” the intersection of Arlington and Mississippi, is the site for the first three railroad improvements on the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s list of candidates in Pontotoc County.

Timothy “Jombus” Mankin has owned the shop “Jombus Ink” across Krazy Korner for 10 years and says he’s seen vehicles get stuck on the tracks and get hit by trains.

“But main thing is people try to beat it, and they think they have room to beat it, and they don’t,” said Mankin.

According to Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit organization promoting railroad safety, 45 train-related wrecks occurred in Oklahoma last year, leaving eight people dead.

Additionally, fourteen trespass incidents left seven people dead in 2014. The number of pedestrians who’ve died on the tracks is on the rise, with the total number of trespasser fatalities at eight so far this year.

Operation Lifesaver spokesperson Sherry Soliz said of the 3700 plus public, at-grade railroad crossings in the State of Oklahoma, only about 25% have active signalization, meaning gates and/or flashing lights.

Soliz said most of the crossings have only a white cross buck sign, while some also have a round yellow advance warning sign.

City of Ada Public Safety Director Jeff Crosby says his best train safety tip is to always assume a train is coming.

“If the lights are coming on don’t think ‘Well, I don’t see nothing, I’m going’ because trains a lot of times are going faster than they look,” Crosby said.

Crosby says even if the train crossings don’t have lights or mechanical arms, you should still slow down and look both ways.

People who get stuck on the tracks should leave their vehicle and call 911, even if they don’t see a train coming.

ODOT spokesperson Cody Boyd said the $100 million initiative will add more safety and detection features to many crossings as well as improve crossing surfaces.

The money will come from existing railroad improvement funds plus proceeds from the sale of Sooner Sub rail line from the state back to the private sector.

Body said, in previous years, ODOT had only about $8 million a year in available rail safety program funds, which were used to improve 25 crossings per year.

The Oklahoma Transportation Commission approved funding for ten improvements in a meeting last Monday.

While projects in Pontotoc County weren’t on that list, Boyd said they plan to approve funding for ten new improvements every month over the next three years.