County applying for railroad improvement grant, aims to increase visibility

County officials want to make it more clear that you are approaching a railroad crossing by brightening the road markings that warn you tracks are ahead.

With money from a railroad grant, workers can improve the appearance of 40 railroad crossings in Johnson County, but that still doesn’t change how safe those crossings will be.

A federal grant program, which the Johnson County Highway Department has received money from in the past, goes toward new stop signs, illegal parking signs or pavement markings like the large white X’s painted on the road, said Johnson County Highway Director Luke Mastin.

The grant does not pay for adding safety improvements such as crossarms or flashing lights to railroad crossings, Mastin said.

Those kinds of improvements are the long-term goal.

The dozens of railroad crossings in Johnson County will be seeing trains speeding up to 60 mph and coming through 10 to 15 more times per day starting in about seven years. For some of the major crossings in Johnson County, residents will not be properly warned about frequent oncoming trains, the mayors have said.

Crossarms, the main feature that both Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness and Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers want, could cost $150,000 a piece. The mayors want at least three sets of crossarms installed to keep residents safe, they said previously.

Cities can apply for the their own money from the railroad grant that the Johnson County Highway Department is applying for, Mastin said. If awarded, the highway department will be able to repaint pavement markings in front of 40 railroad crossings in unincorporated areas of the county, Mastin said. If the county had to pay for their own pavement markings to be refinished, the department would be looking at a cost of $500 per railroad crossing, Mastin said.