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ITD helps Idaho N&P go totally LED

Rail crossings in the Treasure Valley have become much brighter, thanks to a little help from ITD. The Idaho Northern & Pacific Railroad, which stretches from Boise to Nampa/Caldwell and north to Horseshoe Bend, is the first complete system in the United States to install LED (light emitting diode) lights at all of its crossings.

“They’re much safer in the fact that they’re brighter and far more visible, even when you’re staring in the sunlight you can see them much clearer than the old bulb and lens,” said Jonathan Lenhart, Utility Railroad Engineer.

LED is commonly found in most bright digital displays. Idaho N&P was bestowed the honor of being the nation’s only all-LED system through an Idaho Transportation Board decision to purchase the lights for the entire system.

“(Retired ITD rail highway safety specialist) Lee Wilson took the request to the board, passed it through and gave it to the entire system,” said Idaho N&P Track Manager Robert Adams. “Lee was always looking for new technology that would improve railroad safety.”

Like Wilson, Adams is an active member of Operation Life Saver, a national organization founded in Idaho in 1972 that promotes railroad safety, something to which LED lights significantly contribute.

“LED lights have a larger spectrum so they’re visible in a larger area; also with the incandescent bulbs if the bulb goes out you loose your light. With LEDs, you could loose 50 percent of the bulbs and still have the same brightness of an incandescent bulb,” said Adams.

Another advantage of LEDs is that they use half the power of incandescent bulbs. This means that in the case of a power outage they can last up to a week on battery backup power; in contrast, the incandescent bulb would typically survive for about 24 hours.

Because of these superior safety issues, ITD has mandated that all funded railroad crossings be equipped with LED lights.

“Our long range goal is to be the first state to have every single railroad light be LED,” Lenhart said.

Photo caption: All of the Idaho Northern & Pacific Railroad's crossings in the Treasure Valley, including this one at Milwaukee and Franklin, have new, brighter LED lights to warn motorists.