New legislation introduced to improve railroad grade crossings


Schumer, left, Blumenthal, make their case in Grand Central Terminal
on Sunday

NEW YORK – In the wake of the recent railroad grade crossing crash that killed six people, US Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) are introducing legislation aimed at reducing similar collisions in the future.
The Valhalla crash killed the driver of an SUV that crossed the tracks
and five passengers on the Metro-North Harlem Line commuter train.
The new legislation would concentrate on engineering, education and enforcement.
Valhalla is in the Town of Mount Pleasant and Town Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi said any new safety measures would be a “welcome addition.” Education is also necessary so drivers are more aware of how dangerous the crossings are, he said.
Schumer said on Sunday the measure would provide new resources to the Federal Railroad Administration, states and communities to make critical engineering and safety upgrades at rail crossings. It would improve lights, signals and signs at crossings and building of bridges and tunnels to separate from rail track.
The FRA receives $220 million annually to eliminate such hazards and the new bill would increase that by $50 million per year for four years. It would also revive the FRA’s Rail Line Relocation and Improvement Capital Grant program, which until 2009 had helped states and communities relocate a rail line for safety and other purposes. The legislation would reauthorize the program and provide $25 million per year for four years and clarify that Congress would fund a rail line’s relocation only for safety purposes.
The legislation would also revive the FRA’s Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Grants Safety program created by Congress in 2008, but never implemented. It was designed to provide grants to states for targeting engineering and technology issues, public awareness and education activities and targeted law enforcement to minimize grade crossing collisions.
The measure would reauthorize the program for four years and fund it at $100 million per year for four years.  It would also strengthen the federal government’s partnership with Operation Lifesaver, a non-profit organization that conducts public safety awareness and education campaigns and works with law enforcement officials to prevent fatalities and injuries at highway-rail grade crossings and along railroad rights-of-way.
Fulgenzi said the tragedy of earlier this month should never be repeated. But he cautioned “all the safety measures in the world cannot replace common sense and carelessness.” He said people make mistakes and all accidents will never be completely eliminated. 

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