Senators propose more funding for grade-crossing safety following Metro North crash

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Crews rescue survivors from the Metro North crash in Westchester County, New York on Feb. 3, 2015.

HARTFORD – On Sunday, Feb. 15, U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthel (D-Conn.) announced new legislation aimed at reducing highway-rail grade collisions.

This legislation is in response to the fatal Metro-North collision at the Valhalla grade crossing recently, which claimed the lives of six people and injured others. While precise cause of the accident is still in question, it’s clear that the existence of rail grade crossing played a significant role.  According to Schumer and Blumenthal, “In 2013, 2,096 accidents at grade crossings killed over 200 people nationwide and Feds should provide more funding for improved engineering, education & enforcement at rail crossings across the country.”

The Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Act of 2015 will focus on engineering, education and enforcement, aptly named the “Three Es”, which are the factors that experts have identified as the most effective means of reducing such collisions.  It would provide new resources to the Federal Railroad Administration, states and communities to make critical engineering and safety upgrades at rail crossings, like installing new lights and signals, particularly at accident-prone crossings. It would also provide grant funding to strengthen education and public awareness of grade crossing dangers, and for law enforcement to reduce violations of traffic laws at crossings.

Specifically, in accordance with the “Three Es,” the new legislation would bolster:

o   ENGINEERING (installing improved lights, signals and signs at crossings and building bridges and tunnels to separate roadways from rail track):

  • Bolster funding for the Federal Highway Administration’s Railway-Highway Crossing program

 

  • Revive the FRA’s Rail Line Relocation & Improvement Capital Grant program

 

o   EDUCATION,ENFORCEMENT, TARGETED ENGINEERING (increasing public awareness of grade crossing dangers and promoting police efforts to reduce violations of traffic laws at crossings):

 

  • Revive the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Grants Safety program.

 

  • Strengthen the federal government’s partnership with Operation Lifesaver.

 

  • Give the FRA additional manpower to focus on rail grade crossing collisions.

 

  • Require the FRA to analyze new technology the public can use to report dangers at grade crossings.

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