U.S. DOT wants to advance highway-rail grade crossing safety

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
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U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced significant plans to advance highway-rail grade crossing safety. The announcement comes as the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) hosted a grade-crossing safety summit, with remarks from FRA Administrator Ron Batory, Acting Department of Transportation Deputy Secretary Steve Bradbury, and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Deputy Administrator Mala Parker.

“The Department is committed to supporting infrastructure improvements, new communications tools, and working to change driver behavior so that highway-rail grade crossings are safe environments for all transportation users,” said Chao.

Underscoring the Department’s commitment to addressing the challenge of rail crossing safety, Secretary Chao announced the publication of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to improve safety at public highway-rail grade crossings nationwide. The proposed rule would require all states and the District of Columbia to develop and implement a new or updated highway-rail grade crossing action plan no later than one year after the effective date of the final rule.

FRA will review states’ action plans for sufficiency and, upon approval, FRA will publish the plans on the Internet. These action plans will enable states to prioritize infrastructure and equipment investments at railway crossings using a variety of resources, including federal formula funds and grants.

Since 2017, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has distributed more than $900 million in formula funds to states for grade crossing improvements through the Section 130 program. Additionally, the Administration has awarded $324 million in discretionary grant funds to 43 projects that include grade crossing improvements and trespass prevention elements, with more than 500 grade crossings in 26 states to be improved as a result of these investments.

“Grade crossing collisions are the second leading cause of rail-related deaths in America, but nearly every one of them is preventable,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. “The action plans provide states a tool to engage with federal and local partners, railroads, and rail safety advocates to identify high risk crossings and develop strategies to save lives.”

Secretary Chao also announced that the Highway-Rail Crossing Handbook has been updated and revamped for the first time in over 10 years. This important resource for constructing and maintaining safer highway-rail grade crossings offers guidance for best practices and new standards to improve safety at the nation’s 130,000 public rail and road junctures.

The third edition of the Highway-Rail Crossing Handbook provides important information on highway-rail crossings and characteristics of the crossing environment and users, and was developed in conjunction with stakeholders and safety advocates. The guidance focuses on the physical and operational improvements that can be made at highway-rail grade crossings to enhance the safety and operation of both highway and rail traffic over crossing intersections.

Comments on the proposed rule on State Action Plans are due to FRA by Jan. 6, 2020. For further information and instructions on how to comment on the proposed rulemaking, see the NPRM as published in the Federal Register at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2019/11/07/2019-24197/state-highway-rail-grade-crossing-action-plans

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Categories: Class 1, Commuter/Regional, Freight, Passenger, Rail News, Railroad News, Rapid Transit/Light Rail, Safety/Training, Shortline/Regional
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