The Federal Railroad Administration issued a notice of proposed rulemaking or NPRM on November 7 that would requiring 40 states and the District of Columbia to develop and implement highway-rail grade crossing action plans.
That NPRM would also require 10 states previously required to develop highway-rail grade crossing action plans by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 to update their plans and to submit reports to the agency describing actions they have taken to implement them.
[Above photo by the FRA.]
FRA said in its filing that it is issuing this proposed rule in response to a mandate from the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation or FAST Act and that written comments must be received by January 6, 2020.
Overall, the issue of highway-rail grade crossing safety has become a focal point for the U.S. Department of Transportation since last year.
USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao noted at a special summit on railroad grade crossing safety hosted by FRA in October 2018 that “statistics show that progress has leveled off the last five years” in regards to reducing railroad grade crossing crashes involving trains and motor vehicles.
According to FRA data released on November 5, 2,217 highway-rail grade crossing collisions occurred in 2018, resulting in 270 fatalities.
Sec. Chao noted in her written remarks at the time that more collaboration in needed to develop “strategies to further improve safety around grade crossings,” and that “success will require infrastructure improvements. It will also require new communications tools to get the word out about the dangers at railroad crossings. The communications goal is to change people’s behavior and make them aware of how difficult it is for a train to stop.”
The Government Accountability Office also issued a report last year that called for “greater flexibility” in federal funding provided to the states for railroad grade crossing safety measures.
The GAO’s report on railroad grade crossing safety programs recommended that the Federal Highway Administration re-evaluate its requirements to ensure states “flexibility” to address ongoing safety issues where roads and train tracks meet.