Gate fines increase

Crossing gate violators can expect to be hit harder in the wallet in Illinois.

As of Jan. 1, penalties were doubled for disobeying crossing gate warning systems. The state’s laws are now among the strictest in the U.S.

The Belt’s police force believes that heavier fines are an effective determent and support the new penalty structure. Fines will go from $250 to $500 for a first offense and from $500 to $1,000 for a second offense.

Local commuter railroad, Metra, called on Springfield to make the change. The bill changing penalty amounts was approved last spring, and Gov. Bruce Rauner signed it into law in July, which amended the state᾿s vehicle code.

The hope is the new law will reduce highway-rail fatalities. Illinois suffered the second most incidents in the nation in 2015. The state has the second-largest rail system of any in the union. The vast majority of incidents in which trains collide with vehicles occur at crossing with active warning devices.