The Illinois Commerce Commission has the statutory responsibility to improve safety at public highway-rail crossings in the State of Illinois. Currently, there are over 8,400 highway-rail grade crossings in Illinois, of which over 800 are on state roads, and more than 7,600 are on local roads. There over 2,700 highway-rail grade-separated crossings (bridges) in the state. More than 4,730 grade crossings are on private property, which are not under the jurisdiction of the state, and there are over 163 private bridge structures. There are nearly 400 pedestrian grade crossings and 85 pedestrian grade separated crossings (bridges) in Illinois. Nationally, Illinois is second only to Texas in the total number of highway-rail crossings.

The Commission orders safety improvements at public highway-rail crossings with the cost of such improvements paid by the state, the railroads, and local governments. On state roads, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) pays the majority of the costs through the State Road Fund. For local roads, the Illinois General Assembly created the Grade Crossing Protection Fund (GCPF) to bear the majority of the costs of improvements.

The GCPF, appropriated to the Illinois Department of Transportation but administered by the Illinois Commerce Commission, was created by the General Assembly to assist local jurisdictions (counties, townships and municipalities) in paying for safety improvements at highway-railroad crossings on local roads and streets. Assistance from the GCPF cannot be used for safety improvements at highway-rail crossings located on the state road or highway system. Those improvements are paid for by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Each month $2.25 million in state motor fuel tax receipts is transferred from the Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) fund to the Grade Crossing Protection Fund. This amount provides the GCPF with $27 million annually to be used for safety improvements at highway/rail crossings on local roads and streets. The GCPF is typically used to help pay for the following types of projects:

  • Warning Device Upgrades: Installation of automatic flashing light signals and gates at public grade crossings currently not equipped with automatic warning devices; installation of automatic flashing light signals and gates at public grade crossings currently equipped only with automatic flashing light signals; signal circuitry improvements at public grade crossings currently equipped only with automatic warning devices;
  • Grade Separations - New and Reconstructed: Construction, reconstruction, or repair of bridges carrying a local road or street over railroad tracks (overpass); construction, reconstruction, or repair of bridges carrying railroad tracks over a local road or street (subway);
  • Grade Separations - Vertical Clearance Improvements: Lowering the existing highway pavement surface under a railroad bridge to improve vertical clearance for motor vehicles;
  • Pedestrian Grade Separations: Construction of a bridge to carry pedestrian/bicycle traffic over or under railroad tracks;
  • Interconnects: Upgrading the circuitry at grade crossings where warning signals are connected to the adjacent traffic signals so that the two systems operate in a synchronized manner;
  • Highway Approaches: Improvements to the portion of the public roadway directly adjacent to the crossing surface;
  • Connecting Roads: Construction of a roadway between a closed crossing and an adjacent open, improved crossing; and
  • Remote Monitoring Devices: Sensor devices in the circuitry of grade crossing warning devices which immediately alert the railroad to any failures in warning device operations
  • Low Cost Improvements at Unsignalized Crossings: Installation of new, more reflective crossbuck warning signs and YIELD signs at crossings that do not require automatic warning devices.
  • Crossing Closures: Provide an incentive payment to local agencies for the voluntarily closure of public highway-rail grade crossings.