Safety Upgrades Planned

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A rail crossing in Newton County is typical of many in Mississippi. They are unprotected with no flashing lights or drop gates. That may change under a new program instituted by Kansas City Southern Railroad and MDOT.

Allen Pepper, public safety manager for KCS, was in our area Monday to inspect the Pine Forest Road crossing near Chunky.

"It's one of the typical crossings in Mississippi that has just crossbucks. It's sort of a yield sign to the motorist," said Pepper. "Now what we're looking at under the program is to take this typical type of rural Mississippi crossing and be able to look at it in the package from Vicksburg to Meridian and give it a warning device upgrade, and this particular crossing will go from crossbucks all the way up to flasher lights and gates."

Officials say this is an extensive upgrade, costing about $12 million.

"We think that in the corridor, it will be limited to about five to seven crossings out of about 140 crossings that will remain where you'll see this type of warning device," Pepper said.

Eighteen trains a day come over the Pine Forest Road crossing. Maximum speed for trains at that point is 59 miles per hour.

Pepper said railroad crossing accidents are a major problem.

"In Mississippi we have around a hundred a year. All of them are preventable if everybody does what they're supposed to do," said Pepper.

What drivers are supposed to do at railroad crossings is stop, look and listen. These upgrades will help them do just that.