September 30, 2005 – Posted at 8:44 p.m. CDT
JONESBORO, AR -- Arkansas ranks an unlucky 13th in the nation when it comes to railroad fatalities. But legislators are working to change that by placing more crossing arms and warning signals at railroad intersections across the state. Funding is limited, but a house subcommittee is looking for ways to stretch their dollars.
There are nearly 3,000 railroad crossings in the state of Arkansas, but about 70% don't have safety guards. The state receives $3.5 million dollars a year from federal government for improvements.
“The costs of these railroad crossing gates, the one with candelabra that go up and down with the blinking lights, are approximately $250-thousand dollars each. So that doesn't leave very much money,” said District 76 State Representative Ray Kidd.
Arkansas usually adds 6-8 crossings a year, but legislators may tap the railroads to change that.
“The railroads currently use 118 million gallons of diesel fuel a year, approximately. There are no fees or taxes on this fuel at this time,” said Kidd.
Taxing the fuel at .22 cents per gallon could make a big difference.
“This would generate approximately $27 million dollars per year and would allow the state of Arkansas to replace or repair or to add approximately 100 of the gates throughout the state,” said Kidd.