Drivers could notice new lights, signs near Hallsville railroad crossing

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HALLSVILLE - A railroad crossing in Hallsville could be the next location to get active warning devices as part of the Missouri Highway-Rail Crossing Safety Program.

The crossing at the Columbia Terminal (COLT) Railroad and Mt Zion Church Road does not have active warning devices. The possible installation would include new flashing light signals and gates with LED lights, two audible bells, and stop lines and pavement markings along both sides of the crossing.

Some neighbors living near the crossing said the warning devices could be beneficial in preventing future accidents, but others said it’s unnecessary because the railroad is rarely used.

“I don’t think the train ever causes an issue here,” Zach Andrews said, who lives near the crossing. “They’re hardly ever in the road, and when they are in the way, they’re not moving very fast.”

According to a city council memo, the city manager and the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission made an agreement that led to the city’s participation in the highway-rail safety program. The commission is the governing body of MoDOT. This agreement has been used to install or upgrade other crossings, with the latest being the installation of warning devices at O’Rear Road in northeast Boone County.

MoDOT Railroad Project Manager Chris Brownell said it looks at the amount of cars on the public highway near the track, the speed of the cars, the railroad's surroundings, the condition of the track and more to decide which crossings need safety additions. The evaluation of the Mt Zion Church Road crossing led to this proposed installation.

“We do this throughout the state, and this one came up as one that needed to be done," Brownell said. "We went ahead and put it on the schedule, and we're moving forward with it.”

The Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission will reimburse COLT for 100 percent of the total installation cost, which is estimated at $170,012. MoDOT gets 90 percent of this funding to pay for the installation from the federal government. The other 10 percent comes from an account specifically used for railroad improvements. This account gets 25 cents each time someone registers a vehicle through the state. 

Brownell said some railroads are able to pay the 10 percent, but COLT doesn't have the funding for it.

"COLT railroad is smaller, and for the smaller railroads, we will cover that bill just so that we get the safety improvements we need," Brownell said.

The Columbia City Council will hold a public hearing Monday night at 7 p.m. to discuss the proposed safety measures.