To address this need, low-cost active signal systems have been proposed, built, and deployed in a few test locations throughout the country. These systems, which are intended to cost $15,000-$30,000 per crossing, take advantage of new technologies, such as low-power LED signals, solar power, global positioning, microwave detection, and radio communication.
The need for effective signals in South Dakota will increase as regional railroads increase the number and speed of trains. The Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad, for example, plans to dramatically increase traffic on its east-west route through Rapid City, Pierre, Huron, and Brookings. The DM&E is actively upgrading rail to permit operating speeds up to 49 miles per hour, significantly higher than current operating speeds on many portions of track. The use of low-cost signals would enable far more crossings to be equipped with active signals than is possible with conventional technology, improving the safety of motorists and railroads.
Research is needed to determine which of the new, low-cost systems are appropriate to South Dakotas need, in consideration of performance, conformance with regulatory requirements, costs, and reliability.