If you live in an area of Washington with a lot of train traffic, then understanding how to properly interact with them is essential to your safety and the safety of your passengers. Too often people make mistakes when it comes to train crossings that cost them their lives. Nobody wants that to happen to you. One of the best ways to keep yourself safe is to understand the concept of train speeds.
To begin with, the Washington State Department of Transportation explains either the Utilities and Transportation Commission or the Federal Railroad Administration set what speeds a train can go. The UTC sets speed only where the FRA does not because federal law comes before state law, giving the FRA the main authority.
You may notice that trains are running at faster speeds these days. This is not just your impression. It is the reality. Train speeds have increased, but they only do so after careful planning and inspection. Before raising speeds, the agency in charge must ensure the track can handle it and make plans for signal improvements. The reasons the UTC and FRA increase speeds are to benefit everyone. Trains can provide quicker service, therefore hauling more goods. They move through crossing quicker, helping to reduce traffic jams. In addition, if trains carry more, then trucks do not have to, thus reducing the amount of traffic on roads.
When interacting with a train, one of the most common misconceptions is how fast the train is traveling. It is not possible to accurately gauge the speed of a train due to the size of the train. This is why trying to “beat the train” by moving around crossing bars is dangerous. Always obey signals. Find an alternative route if you must go around a blocked crossing or one in use. This information is for education and is not legal advice.