BERWYN, Ill. (CBS) -- A total of 39 people were killed trespassing on railroad tracks in Illinois last year alone.
It has become such an issue that now, the federal government is sending money to try to prevent it from happening along a stretch of railroad in west suburban Cook County.
CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey is told improvements will be coming to a stretch of the BNSF corridor between Berwyn and La Grange — nearly $3 million specifically aimed at keeping pedestrians off the tracks.
It happens far too often. In April, a pedestrian was struck by a Metra BNSF Line train near Naperville, and then in June, a freight train.
Across the state, 62 pedestrians trespassing on railroad rights-of-way were struck by passing trains last year, leaving 39 people dead and 23 others injured.
It has been enough of an issue to get on the radar of the federal government, which announced $2.8 million in funding to help the problem.
The money will help prevent pedestrians from gaining access to the BNSF rail lines near roadway crossings from Berwyn to La Grange.
How? By adding more than 18,000 feet of new fencing across 18 at-grade crossings along the BNSF corridor — closing up any gaps through which pedestrians could squeeze.
The office of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said walking channels will also be added to guide pedestrians safely at some locations:
"This project will address significant safety concerns that prevent pedestrians from gaining access to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) rail lines near roadway crossings between Berwyn and La Grange.
"The proposed safety improvements include adding approximately 18,300 linear feet of new fencing across 18 at-grade crossings along the BNSF corridor. This fencing will fill in gaps along the corridor that currently lack fencing. Walking channels will also be added to safely guide pedestrians across ten at-grade crossings adjacent to Metra station platforms.
"The BNSF rail line consists of three tracks which are used by both Metra commuter rail and BNSF freight rail. Metra's BNSF line is the busiest in the Metra system with over 15.5 million riders in 2019. As of fall 2022, Metra runs 91 trains throughout the corridor each day of the week."
Several of the municipalities we reached out to told us the improvements are news to them — but sorely needed to prevent scenes like these from happening again.
The federal investment will provide up to $2,888,000 for the project and Cook County will provide a 20 percent match. As described by the Biden-Harris administration:
"The project involves final design and construction for trespassing prevention measures along the BNSF Railway corridor in west suburban Cook County. This corridor is a critical route for the Metra commuter rail system as well as freight transportation, and the project addresses rail safety hot spots with a history of trespassing incidents along the route. By directing pedestrians to grade crossings near Metra stations and erecting a barrier along the corridor, the project will enhance safety and greatly reduce the risk of grade crossing collisions. Cook County will provide a 20 percent non-Federal match, and this project qualifies for the statutory set-aside for trespassing prevention."
Why make the investment on the BNSF line in particular? Metra's BNSF line is the busiest in the Metra system — with about 91 trains throughout this corridor each day of the week.
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