Tacoma school buses are no longer required to stop at the Tideflats railroad crossing on state Route 509 near Alexander Avenue.
The change went into effect Monday for buses carrying Tacoma Public Schools students.
The goal is to prevent vehicles, which can travel up to 50 mph in the area, from having to make sudden stops behind school buses approaching the lightly used rail crossing.
The rule exemption means that school buses — as well as other commercial vehicles carrying at least eight passengers and vehicles transporting hazardous materials — no longer need to come to a complete stop at the crossing.
There have been six rear-end collisions in the past three years near the crossing, according to the state Department of Transportation. Four of those took place when school buses were stopped, though not all the vehicles struck a bus, said Ahmer Nizam of WSDOT, who worked with Tacoma Public Schools on reclassifying the crossing to “exempt” status.
The crossing serves Tacoma Rail trains headed for a locomotive repair facility, Nizam said. He said only three trains a week, traveling at a top speed of 10 mph, use the crossing. Most of those trains move at night and come to a complete stop before entering the crossing, he added.
Nizam said there is no gate at this crossing, but the state and Tacoma Rail are working to place additional warning lights there.
WSDOT estimates that an average of 22,000 vehicles per day passed through the crossing area in 2014. Among those are 16 school buses that carry students between Northeast Tacoma and Browns Point to Stadium High School, the School of the Arts, the Science and Math Institute, and to various special programs.
The crossing is the only one with exempt status along the school bus route through the area. Tacoma Public Schools said its buses will continue to stop at other rail crossings on state Route 509 and along Marine View Drive.