FRA proposes crossing-hazards hotline

March 4, 2011

WASHINGTON — Railroads soon will be required by the Federal Railroad Administration to establish toll-free telephone numbers to allow the public to report malfunctioning highway-rail grade-crossing warning signals, disabled vehicles blocking crossings and other unsafe conditions at crossings.

The rule is required by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 and will go into effect following a 60-day public comment period.

Under the proposed rule, once the railroad receives a call about an unsafe situation, train dispatchers and crews in the area would be notified immediately of the unsafe condition in an effort to avoid an accident.

The proposal to establish emergency notification systems would require railroads to post a toll-free telephone number and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Crossing Inventory identification number at every highway-rail crossing and explicitly authorized pathway grade-crossing.

Currently, major Class I freight railroads and major passenger railroads have some type of system in place by which they receive notification of unsafe conditions at grade crossings.

However, said the FRA, not all smaller railroads have such a system in place. Based on National Crossing Inventory data, the proposed rule would affect 211,401 highway-rail and pathway grade-crossings on 594 railroads.