There are 1,400 railroad-grade crossings in Idaho.

A tragic train accident in Idaho got me thinking about a social media post I saw a couple of months ago.  Four people in a pickup truck were killed by a train in Notus on Saturday.  As I write this, I haven’t seen much beyond the original story.  Two adults and two kids died. I’m familiar with the crossing.  I’ve been to Notus on a couple of occasions.

There are many grade crossings throughout the state, and rail remains a major part of the state’s economy.  I drive through a switch yard going to and from work.  There are four potential crossings and three of them are at street level.  The fourth, on Eastland Drive South, has a bridge over the automobile traffic.  It’s been there a long time.

The busiest crossing is downtown, near the aptly named Depot Grill.  When a train is stacking cars, there can be a considerable backup.  Sure, it’s inconvenient.  I saw a post on Facebook where someone floated the idea of another overpass.  Being social media, dozens of people impolitely replied in opposition.  It’s not that they approve of long waits and won’t endorse safety, it’s about cost.

For comparison, a project the city is working on to replace pipes alongside Kimberly Road has a price tag of three million dollars.  A new bridge over the Snake River Canyon could easily cost one billion dollars!  An overpass wouldn’t be nearly as complex, but would still be far more expensive than the pipeline project.  It would also snarl traffic even more for months or longer.

Driving is always a risk.  We know that every time the engine rolls over.  Our population has almost tripled in recent decades, which brings more traffic.  I believe the best we can do is be alert.

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