Steamboat Springs New technology is being installed to make a stretch of U.S. 40 between Craig and Hayden safer for motorists and school children.
The Colorado Department of Transportation is spending about $25,000 to add sensors to the railroad crossing near a rest area west of Hayden, said Jim Nall, manager of traffic and safety for northwest Colorado.
"We are in the process of putting in an advance warning system for the train tracks," he said of the project that is the first of its kind in the state. "This will give motorists advance notice that a school bus is stopped at the train tracks and they need to slow down."
By law, all school buses must stop at railroad crossings. After stopping, bus drivers must open the door and look both ways before proceeding, Nall said.
The warning system at the railroad crossing will work using sensors in the pavement, which are similar to ones used at traffic lights, Nall said.
"When the school bus stops at the crossing it triggers a signal," he said.
When the sensor is triggered, a sign with two lights that is 1,200 feet from the railroad crossing will start flashing, he said. Motorists approaching the sign will be able to see it from 1,000 feet, he said.
"We want to get the attention of the motorist," Nall said. "The motorist will know someone is stopped there."
Once the bus leaves, the signal will stop flashing.
The Hayden School District has been concerned about the safety of its lone school bus that travels between Hayden and Craig during the school year, said Carl Ray, district director of transportation.
"In the past we have experienced some trucks and other vehicles passing the bus illegally while it was stopped at the crossing," Ray said. "Our concern is that another vehicle could hit the bus."
The bus transports about 30 students to and from school, between Hayden and Craig. Ray believes CDOT's effort will ease the school district's concern.
"It is great," he said of the project. "It is something we have requested.
"That stretch of road is a limited-sight area. The project should help motorists from approaching that crossing really fast."
The railroad crossing warning system was developed in-house by CDOT engineers, Nall said.
"Since it is new technology, it will be tested," he said, adding that he expects the system to be installed by the end of September.
Ray, who is in his first-year with the district, is pleased with the state's response to the district's concern.
"We wrote a letter, and they responded pretty quickly," he said. "We are very appreciative of the effort to do this. It will help the safety of our bus route."