Mon., August 5, 2013 3:54pm (EDT)

Rail Safety Efforts Cost Millions
By Orlando Montoya
Updated: 1 year ago

SAVANNAH, Ga.  —  
Georgia railroad crossings are not always gated.  It costs between $250,000 and $300,000 to install a gate with bells and lights.  (photo Rusty Tanton)
Georgia railroad crossings are not always gated. It costs between $250,000 and $300,000 to install a gate with bells and lights. (photo Rusty Tanton)
State transportation officials say they're doing the best they can to reduce deaths and injuries at highway-railroad crossings.

The cost of putting up gates is a big factor in the state's approach.

The Georgia Department of Transportation gets about $8 million a year in federal funding for rail crossing safety.

It costs as much as $300,000 dollars to put up a gate.

So, only a few dozen gates are put up a year.

This is while the state has more than 3,000 rail crossings without gates to warn drivers of oncoming trains.

Agency spokeswoman Natalie Dale says not all crossings need gates.

"Would we like to do more? Absolutely," Dale says. "But we are doing the most that we can. We're really maximizing that $8 million."

Many rural crossings are rarely used -- by cars or trains.

"We are working through an extensive list of crossings as fast as we can with the tools that we have," Dale says. "But there isn't necessarily a goal to gate all crossings in the state. And that's important to know because not every crossing needs a gate."

Last year, Georgia recorded 47 highway-rail crossing deaths or injuries.

That's up from 34 the year before.

Counting only fatalities, however, the number was six.

And comparing the numbers more historically, in the 1970's, between 40-50 people died each year in car-train collisions.