LAWRENCE - There have been no trains in Lawrence for 15 years.

But until state laws were changed this year, school buses going to and from the Van Buren Intermediate School District in Lawrence were required to stop at the village's railroad crossings.

On Friday, state Rep. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawrence, visited Lawrence and officially unveiled the first railroad crossing "exempt" signs in Michigan.

A school bus stopping at a railroad crossing may not seem like a big deal, but ISD Superintendent Jeff Mills said over time the costs in fuel and labor really do add up.

A stop costs an estimated $1, Mills said.

With the high amount of bus traffic going to and from the ISD, the required stopping over the past 15 years adds up to a total of $615,000 in wasted money, he said.

"Over the past 15 years, not one rail car has gone down those tracks," Mills said.

It took Nesbitt more than a year to get the new legislation in place.

"This is a common-sense solution to traffic tie-ups," Nesbitt said. "By not requiring a stop at tracks that have been long abandoned, we can make our roads safer by keeping traffic flowing smoothly."

Stopped buses were a potential traffic hazard, especially in winter, he said.

Other vehicles required to stop at railroad tracks include those hauling hazardous material or transporting more than 16 passengers. The new law exempts inactive tracks.

"This will help eliminate the school bus congestion that we currently experience," Mills said. "Safety of our students on buses is a priority and this will help keep them out of harm's way."

The new law went into effect in October.

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