Posts Tagged ‘Railroad grade crossing safety’

OLI Chapters Awarded Grant Funds

May 27, 2021

Operation Lifesaver in partnership with the Federal Railroad Administration and the Posner Foundation of Pittsburgh has awarded grants to chapters in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Ohio for grade crossing safety and trespassing prevention projects.

The grants in partnership with the FRA totaled $200,317 and were made to Operation Lifesaver programs in 12 states while the Posner Foundation grants totaled $245,317 in combined grant funds.

The FRA-funded grants will be awarded to OLI chapters in Alabama, California, Georgia, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota and Tennessee.

Most of the Posner Foundation grant money is being awarded in Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and New Jersey.

All of the grants were awarded through a competitive process.

FRA Publishes Grade Crossing Safety Plan Rule

December 16, 2020

The Federal Railroad Administration has issued its final rule that requires states to create plans to improve safety at railroad grade crossings,

The rule, which is mandated by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, requires 40 states and the District of Columbia to create a safety improvement plan for every crossing that has been the site of at least one accident or incident in the past three years, multiple accidents in the past five years, or is determined by the state to be at high risk for accidents.

Ten states – Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio, and Texas – will be required to update their existing plans and submit reports describing their implementation efforts.

These states had the most grade-crossing accidents between 2006 and 2008 and were required to develop plans under a 2010 FRA rule.

The deadline for the plans is no later than 14 months after the rule’s Dec. 14 publication in the Federal Register.

NS Revives Grade Crossing Safety Campaign

September 25, 2020

During Rail Safety Week Norfolk Southern revived a public awareness campaign about its Waze mobile application that seeks to warn motorists approaching grade crossings.

NS uses the Waze app to provide specific safety tips.

“This partnership [with Waze] gives us a chance to reach people that may not otherwise receive these safety messages, and with 30 million Waze users in the United States alone, that is powerful,” said Jason Morris, the NS assistant vice president of safety and environmental.

The NS campaign will provide safety information when motorists approach crossings that have a high number of crossing incidents.

Motorists will see advertisements in parts of Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, South Carolina and Ohio.

NS implemented a similar campaign in 2019 using Waze and said in a news release that areas targeted last year experienced a drop in grade crossing incidents.

The latest NS campaign began in mid-September in advance of National Rail Safety Week (Sept. 21-27).

OLI Video Targets Truck Drivers

February 14, 2020

Operation Lifesaver has released a video aimed at drivers of cement, dump and garbage trucks that the safety group hopes will prevent grade crossing collisions.

In releasing the video, OLI said the latest data from the Federal Railroad Administration shows there were 506 collisions involving trucks and truck-trailers in 2018, compared with 449 incidents in 2017 and 443 incidents in 2016.

OLI Executive Director Rachel Maleh said the weight of cement, dump and garbage trucks and trains has increased the potential for catastrophic results to lives and property.

The video is 3.5 minutes and urges drivers to pay attention when approaching and crossing railroad tracks.

It also urges drivers to know what to if their vehicle becomes stalled or stuck on the tracks.

The video was produced with funding provided by the FRA.

Railroads Join Battle Against Larger Trucks

February 7, 2020

The annual battle in Congress over truck size has begun with a coalition of railroads, local government, labor and other organizations leading the way.

They are seeking to defeated, once again, efforts of the trucking industry to pass legislation allowing an increase in the size and weights of trucks using federal highways.

Opponents of larger trucks noted in a letter sent to key leaders in Congress that the truck size issue has arisen in the context of legislation to reauthorize the federal Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, which expires Sept. 30.

The parties claim larger trucks will result in billions of dollars in additional bridge and pavement costs to accommodate these vehicles.

The letter said larger trucks would have “severe consequences for local roads and bridges because bigger trucks would not be limited to operating on the interstate highways.

Coalition members that signed the letter included the Association of American Railroads, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, GoRail, the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association, the Railway  Engineering-Maintenance Suppliers Association, the Railway Supply Institute and SMART Transportation Division.

In an unrelated development, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials has called for an emphasis on grade crossing safety as part of the reauthorization of the FAST Act.

Daniel Lipinski (D-Illinois) said during a hearing that he favors increased funding for such safety measures as grade separations and quiet zones.

Both Lipinski and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) also noted the high cost of some crossing safety improvement projects.

DeFazio said some states struggle to cover the costs of multimillion-dollar projects.

Hearing Set on Railroad Grade Crossing Safety

February 1, 2020

A congressional committee plans to hold a hearing on Feb. 5 to discuss railroad grade crossing safety.

The U.S. House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials will meet at 10 a.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington.

A news release sent out by the committee said the hearing will hear testimony regarding the challenges affecting grade crossing safety, trespassing and suicide incidents, blocked grade crossings, as well as efforts to mitigate safety and community concerns of those issues.

The hearing will be available for viewing via webcast.

FRA Grade Crossing Study Used Drones

January 22, 2020

The Federal Railroad Administration has issued a report on its Office of Research, Development and Technology’s study of the use of drones to produce accurate 3-D models of high-profile grade crossings.

In a news release, the FRA said the study, which was conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, found that photogrammetry with ground control points can produce models with similar accuracy to those produce using LiDAR at a much lower cost, FRA officials said in the report.

The study determined the process needed to achieve a simple measurement of ground clearance for these crossings. Volpe also made recommendations to FRA for pursuing the capability, as well as to work with the Federal Highway Administration to provide better information to drivers of low-clearance vehicles.

The study results can be found at

NS to Expand Grade Crossing Safety Program in 2020

January 16, 2020

Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana are among nine states in which Norfolk Southern in cooperation with the Federal Railroad Administration and Operation Lifesaver is intensifying efforts to promote grade crossing safety and discourage trespassing on railroad property.

NS public safety director Will Miller described those efforts at a safety conference hosted by the FRA last year.

The Class 1 carrier began a pilot program last March to incorporate a grade crossing warning feature into Google’s Waze mobile navigation app.

The states chosen for the pilot program, which also include Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, have the highest number of vehicle-rail incidents.

“We looked at areas that had crossings that were close together, that had been problematic for us over time,” Miller said. “We worked with Waze to set up a parameter — which is 5 kilometers in radius — and anytime a Waze user is completely stopped within this targeted area, they will see a brief pop-up safety message.”

The pop-up messages say either “The train you see is closer and moving faster than you think” or “Trains go faster than you think; be cautious when crossing.”

Miller said the warning messages were kept brief to avoid becoming a distraction to drivers.

Safety officials say distracted driving is one factor behind an increase in grade crossing collisions in 2018, the latest year for which figures are available.

The FRA said there were 2,217 collisions at public and private crossings in the United States in 2018, which was up from 2,123 in 2017, 2,049 in 2016 and 2,080 in 2015.

Although the fatalities in those accidents fell to 262 in 2018 from 271 in 2017, the deaths in 2018 outpaced the figures in 2016 (255) and 2015 (237) and tied 2014’s total.

The FRA said these fatalities account for 95 percent of all U.S. rail-related fatalities each year.

Miller said that between March and September of last year, the NS warning campaign reached more than 1 million different Waze users.

“We have found that Waze is successful in providing motorist safety information within targeted areas to help motorists make good decisions at railroad crossings,” he said.

NS plans to expand its use of Waze this year in the nine states it has targeted. The carrier also is creating an online and social media campaign of public service announcements about how to safely cross railroad tracks.

During a November symposium hosted by the FRA, the agency described 16 “actionable” ideas for safety improvements that it is exploring.

The agency has proposed a rule for 40 states to create grade crossing action plans and for 10 other states that already have such plans to update them. Ohio and Indiana are among the latter states.

Although trespassing on railroad property can occur anywhere, an FRA study found nearly 75 percent of all trespasser deaths and injuries occurred within 1,000 feet of a grade crossing.

FRA officials also say they will continue to fund educational programs that help raise rail safety awareness, such as those promoted by Operation Lifesaver.

OLI Executive Director Rachel Maleh said at the FRA symposium that the increase in collisions and deaths at crossings is largely due to distracted motor vehicle drivers and pedestrians.

“People want to get to where they’re going quickly and they’re not paying attention,” Maleh says. “They don’t want to wait for a train at a crossing.”

Maleh said OLI has begun working with “nontraditional” partners to promote grade crossing safety.

She said this includes organizations that have a safety focus but may not be thinking specifically about railroad safety. An example of that are organizations that seek to discourage drunken driving.

PUCO Approves Grade Crossing Projects

December 8, 2019

Three railroads in Ohio will upgrade grade crossing as a result of action taken last week by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

Norfolk Southern will install lights and gates at the County Road 84 crossing in Hancock County by April 4, 2021.

The Wheeling & Lake Erie will upgrade and replace existing lights and gates at the Gilchrist Road crossing in Akron by Sept. 4, 2020.

CSX will install lights and gates and make the approach less steep at the Railroad Street crossing in Milton Center.

The carrier will also close the South Street crossing to vehicles and pedestrians in Milton Center by Dec. 4, 2020.

Federal funding will be provided for the upgrades, although W&LE will share funding responsibility for the Gilchrist Road project, PUCO said in a news release.

Feds Continue to Push Updating Grade Crossing Plans

December 5, 2019

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.