Missouri’s train of thought is – rail infrastructure needs to be a top priority. That’s the idea behind a new railroad safety crossing plan that has been unveiled one year after the deadly 2022 Mendon Amtrak crash that took the lives of four people.

Gov. Mike Parson and the Missouri Legislature are providing $50 million in state funding this budget year to upgrade railroad crossings and help local communities improve safety at 47 rail crossings in Missouri.

“For years and years, we’ve not been able to address the issue like we should have,” Parson said in a Thursday press conference. “I think its unfortunate things happen sometimes that are tragic events that probably are a wakeup call for all of us, but I think you can see now we’re serious about moving forward.”

The recommendations are unique to each location.

MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna said that there are more than 1,400 locations in Missouri where roads cross railroad tracks without warning lights and gates, otherwise known as passive crossings. He says that an $18.5 million passenger study recommends lights and gates at 27 crossings, and closing 17 other crossings in Missouri.

“We intend to attack this on a systemic basis rather than a one-off basis,” McKenna said. “I think that we’ve heard that loud and clear from our federal partners and we intend to work with them to gain that information. We’ve never had the financial resources to do that in the past.”

McKenna estimates that the state would be able to upgrade between seven and ten crossings per year.

Regarding the 2022 Mendon train crash, National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said it was a disaster waiting to happen. In a press conference at the MoDOT headquarters in Jefferson City, she said that specific crossing was poorly designed.

“Motorists were forced to stop where the road was level, which was still 152 feet away, which is three times farther than Missouri state law,” Homendy said. “That’s the maximum under state law. So, you had a steep crossing, vehicles that had to stop far away and you had some vegetation, and then you had an angle at that crossing that, essentially, required drivers to turn their head.”

Rep. Tim Taylor, R-Bunceton, who represents the district the crash was in, has been on that crossing, that has since closed down.

“I know it. I know how the farmers in that area rely on that avenue. (Its), I think if I remember, a 13-mile difference to go around that,” Taylor said. “So, it’s going to have to be worked through.”

Full details and the crossing-specific recommendations, advance signing program and other future studies are available online by clicking here.