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Schumer Announces New Legislation To Improve Railroad Crossing Safety

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer speaks to reporters after visiting the wreckage of the Metro-North crash earlier this month.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer speaks to reporters after visiting the wreckage of the Metro-North crash earlier this month. Video Credit: Skip Pearlman

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY – Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., announced new legislation Sunday to improve safety at railroad grade crossings following the fatal Metro-North accident at a grade crossing in Valhalla earlier this month.

The senators announced the Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Act of 2015 at a press conference Sunday morning at Grand Central Terminal. The act would provide resources to the Federal Railroad Administration, states and communities to improve safety by focusing on engineering, education and enforcement.

“Many of New York’s hundreds of rail grade crossings are truly accidents waiting to happen, and it’s critical that the federal government do more to make engineering upgrades at accident-prone crossings, boost public awareness of the dangers at such crossings and improve reporting of dangerous problems at crossings,” said Schumer. “While the precise cause of the Metro-North crash in Valhalla is still under investigation, it’s crystal clear that the existence of the rail grade crossing played at least some role in the fatal, tragic accident, and this new legislation will focus on providing new resources to the Federal Railroad Administration, states and localities to help make much-needed improvements at many rail grade crossings and help eliminate future collisions. Improved safety must rise from this dark tragedy.”

Among the steps taken in the new legislation would be the installation of improved lights, signals and signs at crossings, and building bridges and tunnels to separate roadways from rail track. The bill would increase funding for the FRA’s Railway-Highway Crossing Program, which provides states with funding for the separation and protection of grades at crossings, the reconstruction of existing railroad grade crossing structures and the relocation of highways to eliminate grade crossings. The program currently receives $220 million a year in funding, which would increase by $50 million per year for four years.

The bill would also revive the FRA’s Rail Line Relocation and Improvement Capital Grant program, which helped states and municipalities relocate rail lines for safety purposes. The new bill would provide $25 million to bring back the program, which was discontinued in 2009.

The senators’ legislation would also revive the FRA’s Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Grants Safety program, which was created as part of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 but never implemented. The new legislation would provide $100 million per year for four years to provide grants to states for targeted engineering and technology, public awareness and education campaigns, and targeted law enforcement to minimize collisions at grade crossings.

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