COLUMBIA — The well-known Columbia Terminal Railroad (COLT) crossing at U.S. 63 is set to be replaced for the first time since it was built in the 1980s. City Council voted unanimously on Monday to approve a loan from the Electric Utility fund to the Railroad Utility fund for construction of the crossing on U.S. 63 between Route B and Brown Station Road.
The existing crossing has exceeded its design life and is in poor condition, according to the city staff's report. The $565,000 loan will cover costs for replacing the crossing and creating a detour roadway while U.S. 63 is closed.
Christian Johanningmeier, an engineer for Columbia Water and Light, said that though the Missouri Department of Transportation owns U.S. 63, it declined to help pay for repairs to the crossing.
“We’ve been trying to get them to financially participate in that project for years,” Johanningmeier said.
Replacement of the crossing comes amidst discussion of building a railway overpass that would address safety issues as well as providing necessary renovations.
“If there was funding available today, we would probably not repair the crossing but direct all efforts to build the bridge,” Johanningmeier said. The bridge would cost $6 million, according to the staff report.
Addressing safety issues at the crossing includes minimizing traffic accidents where the COLT railroad crosses U.S. 63. A report from the Missouri Department of Transportation said 18 accidents occurred between 2002 and 2006, compared to eight between 1997 and 2001. Only three accidents since 2001 have involved a train. The report also cited an increase in traffic, from roughly 10,800 cars per day in 2001 to 22,500 in 2006.
State law requires trucks and buses to stop at railroads, regardless of whether or not a train is there. Most accidents at the crossing have happened when trucks were stopped and cars rear-ended them. The speed limit on U.S. 63 is 70 miles per hour.
The report listed options for reducing these accidents, one of which was to build a railway bridge over the highway. Another was to exempt vehicles from the requirement to stop at a railroad crossing.
Earlier this year the council adopted a resolution to file a request with the Missouri Department of Transportation to exempt school buses and trucks carrying hazardous materials from stopping at this particular intersection, which was granted.