Solar Signals in Minnesota

While flashing lights, heavy gates, and blinking signals guard many of Minnesota’s most well-used railroad crossings, it’s the seldom-used highway-railroad crossings that can be the deadliest.

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota 2002-04-03 [] More than 70 percent of highway-railroad fatalities occur at these low volume passive sign controlled crossings where drivers are unaccustomed to trains coming down the rails. These crossings are of great importance to Mn/DOT; 45 have been selected to test a new, solar powered warning lights system. There are about 5,000 low-volume highway-rail crossings in Minnesota. A low-volume crossing is where trains are infrequent and vehicle traffic is also light but occasionally both cross the tracks and the roadway. Mn/DOT has been working to develop an effective and efficient notification system at these low-volume crossings. For some crossings where the nearest power line is miles away, traditional train warning systems can cost between US$100,000 to US$150,000 to design and install, a prohibitive amount for each of the 5,000 crossings. A low-cost warning system has been developed by a Minnesota company that will be tested starting in mid-April at one crossing and expanded to other crossings for testing through September of 2003. It is anticipated that the design and construction cost of this new system would be only one tenth of the traditional system cost per crossing. This warning system is designed to use existing structures with little or no modification required, using flashing lights on the existing rail crossing sign that is solar powered/battery operated. Wireless technologies, such as Global Positions Systems (GPS), radios and computers, will be used for train location and detection and for flasher activation. This low-cost warning system will be installed at 45 selected crossings in Carver, Chippewa, McLeod, Renville and Swift counties, in cooperation with the Twin Cities and Western Railroad and the Minnesota company that has developed it, C3 Trans System LLC. In December 2003, a final evaluation report on its safety and operation, cost, reliability and future maintenance needs will be completed.
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