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ODOT, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, have completed safety measures at two rail crossings.

PHOTO BY MARK HAGMAN - The new flashing lights and automatic gates have been installed at the BNSF railroad crossing at Gem Lane and Highway 361, between Culver and Metolius.The Oregon Department of Transportation, in cooperation with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, has completed safety measures at two railroad crossings, and is gearing up to make improvements at a third.

The Gem Lane railroad crossing, which was completed in September, now features a flashing light, signals and automatic gates, installed by BNSF.

"Gem Lane went in service the week of Sept. 24," said Taylor Smith, manager of public projects for BNSF Railway for Oregon, Idaho and Montana. "The project scope was to add active warning devices (flashing lights and automatic gates) to a previously passive signed crossing."

Nearly two years ago, ODOT presented several options for the intersection at a meeting with the Jefferson County Commission. Their preferred option was closing the intersection, which has been the scene of fatal accidents over the years.

Audience members who spoke at the meeting were against closing Gem Lane, and favored improving the crossing with a signal and gate.

"It's an important artery; it goes to the Cove," said Mark Hagman, of Culver, who farms on both sides of the Culver Highway.

"The locals generally said, 'Let's just put cross arms there and let it lie,'" he said. "If they close that for us, it would be really expensive."

A year later, in December 2017, the Jefferson County Commission and ODOT signed the agreement for the improvements, which got underway during the summer.

HOLLY M. GILL/MADRAS PIONEER - The BNSF railroad crossing at Northeast Elm Lane has been closed, and southbound traffic rerouted onto Collins Drive on the west side of the track. Drivers heading north can cross at Fir Lane.
The second project involved closing the Elm Lane railroad crossing, which was completed this week.

"Jefferson County completed the paving of Northeast Collins Drive in early October," said Smith, adding that BNSF contractors were expected to work through this week to complete the roadway end treatments.

"Work should be done by the end of the month and the crossing will be officially closed for users," she said. "The traveling public will need to use either Fir Lane to the north, or Dogwood Lane to the south to cross the tracks."

On Fir Lane, a mile north of Elm, she said, "BNSF is working with ODOT to complete the agreements to install active warning devices across these two tracks. This was a condition of the Elm Lane crossing closure agreement with the county. If agreements are signed this year, we should be able to have this crossing installed by next year."

BNSF is also considering improvements to the Depot Road railroad crossing, but "are still working on a path forward," she said.

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