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State awards money to improve rural railroad crossings

The state Utilities and Transportation Commission is helping upgrade 98 railroad crossings in Benton, Franklin, Grant, Adams and Yakima counties.

The commission announced two grants totaling $18,290 in the counties for materials to replace railroad crossing signs and their posts, replace or install stop or yield signs and install reflective tape, according to a Utilities and Transportation Commission news release. Some Grant County crossings will have “Tracks out of service” signs installed to alert the public when tracks are abandoned.

The “out of service” signs allow people driving commercial vehicles transporting passengers or hazardous materials to know they are not required to stop, said Anna Gill, the Utilities and Transportation Commission’s outreach and education manager.

The improvements are expected to be complete by May 30, 2015. Central Washington Railroad requested the upgrades and will pay labor costs in Benton and Yakima counties, while Columbia Basin Railroad is doing so in Franklin, Grant and Adams counties.

The improvements are intended to meet Federal Highway Administration requirements that require stop or yield signs to be installed at railroad crossings that don’t have active warning signals by 2019.

Benton County will have 11 crossings upgraded, all of them near Prosser or Grandview. Franklin County’s four crossings are in the Connell area.

The crossings to be improved in Benton County are on Pioneer and McDonald roads near Prosser and Pioneer, McDonald, Bunn, Wamba, Albro, Missimer, Wilgus, Griffin and County Line roads near Grandview.

The Franklin County crossings to be improved are on Coyan, Warehouse, Paradise and Beuler roads.