The U.S. DOT 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.
Underscoring the Department’s commitment to addressing the challenge of rail crossing safety, the publication of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) will look 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, will publish the plans on the internet. The 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 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.
The Highway-Rail Crossing Handbook has also been updated and revamped for the first time in over 10 years. The 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.
In addition to this, the Department this year conducted the 4th annual multi-million-dollar targeted railroad crossing safety campaign called “Stop. Trains Can’t.” to increase public awareness of railroad crossings and to reduce injuries and death. The campaign focused on cities that have the highest vehicle/train incidents in the past 10 years.
For further information and instructions on how to comment on the proposed rulemaking, see the NPRM as published in the Federal Register.