Feds Continue to Push Updating Grade Crossing Plans

Federal authorities continued to push this week their efforts to reduce railroad grade crossing accidents.

Federal Railroad Administration head Ronald Batory and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao spoke at a conference in Washington that addressed grade crossing safety.

Both talked about a proposed rule published last month in the Federal Register that would require the 10 states with the highest number of grade crossing accidents – including Indiana and Ohio – to update their existing safety programs.

“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,” Chao said at the conference.

FRA and Operation Lifesaver data show that an average of 250 people a year have died at road crossings in the past decade.

Only trespasser fatalities surpass grade crossing incidents in the number of rail-related deaths in the United States. Batory described grade crossing deaths as preventable.

Speaking about the proposed rule to require states to update their grade crossing safety plans, he said it would “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.”

The other eight states with the highest number of grade crossing incidents are Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana and Texas.

Under the proposed rule the states with the highest number of fatalities would need to update their existing grade crossing safety action plans that list the most dangerous crossings and the state’s plans to improve them.

The other 40 states and the District of Columbia would be required to create all new plans.

Public comment is being accepted on the proposed rule through Jan. 6, 2020.

If the rule is adopted states will have one year to create or update their action plans before submitting them to the FRA for review in advance of publication.

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