Federal grants offered to upgrade rail crossings

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U.S. transportation officials will offer $10 million in grants for states to upgrade highway-rail crossings and tracks in response to a surge in flammable fuel shipments in recent years.

Illinois is one of five states where almost 40 percent of the fatalities from rail-crossing collisions have occurred. The others are California, Texas, Alabama and Louisiana.

Wednesday’s planned announcement from the Department of Transportation comes after rail-crossing collisions increased over the past several years, following more than three decades of steady declines.

In all, there were more than 2,200 collisions in 2014, killing 269 people and injuring 849.

Acting Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg says most rail crossing deaths are preventable.

The grants would pay for improvements along rail routes that transport flammable fuels. Shipments of crude oil and ethanol increased dramatically over the past decade before energy prices plummeted.

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