We're seeing a lot few train accidents in Wisconsin, with 2006 being the safest year in the railroad industry's 175-year history. The Federal Railroad Administration says the number of train accidents in the Badger state fell 13% last year as compared to 2005. State Railroad Commissioner Rodney Kreunen says that's impressive considering rail traffic has increased.

Kreunen says they have been working steadily on evaluating high-accident crossings. It's an intensive program, he says, with limited federal funds. "To put more gated crossings in place with large LED lights that stand out better at night and in fog and in snow. And I'm pleased to see that this is starting to really take hold."

Kreunen says railroad safety in general over the past century has greatly increased and better motorist awareness is a huge safety factor. According to the data, human error – the leading cause of all train accidents – declined more than 20%. Also Rodney explains, they now use a Radio Transmission Device — known as an RTD — for better communications. "So, let's say, if a gate is broken, the battery is down, one of the lights is burned out, that signal is given to the dispatcher so they're able to get a technician out there right away. Where in the past many times the local policeman would note it when the gate was broke."

New employees are put through extensive training programs, which really helps to increase safety. Kreunen says in the past ten years rail tonage, per ton mile, has gone up almost 60% and that trend is expected to continue. They plan to continue updating key intersections with gates and signals.

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report (1:50 MP3)

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