FRA urging states to improve crossing safety

January 11, 2011

WASHINGTON — With 220,000 public and private highway-rail grade-crossings in the United States, train and engine workers are no strangers to dare-devil drivers attempting to beat the train.

Through the first nine months of 2010, there were more than 1,300 train-vehicle collisions at highway-rail grade-crossings, resulting in 196 fatalities.

Too often ignored is the emotional impact such accidents have on train and engine workers powerless to stop the train in time. Train and engine workers have a most unfortunate front-row seat to view the unavoidable accident.

Frequently, untrimmed vegetation at highway-rail grade-crossings — those without gates or barriers — restricts visibility.

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RISA) instructed the Federal Railroad Administration, in conjunction with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), to draft model legislation for state governments, which would require removing sight obstructions, including vegetation growth, structures and standing railroad equipment.

Congress, the FRA and the FHWA are urging the 29 states currently without laws or regulations applying to vegetation removal at highway-rail grade-crossings to adopt the model legislation — and states with existing laws and regulations to consider amendments along the lines of the model legislation.

This model legislation provides for:

  • Establishment of a statewide program for the periodic inspection and evaluation of sight distances at passive highway-rail grade-crossings.
  • Specific actions to eliminate sight distance obstructions within close proximity to passive highway-rail grade-crossings.
  • Imposition of civil penalties against railroads and other private property owners that fail to comply with an order to remove or otherwise mitigate the sight distance obstruction.

To view the model legislation, click on the following link: