Every day there are on average about eight train-vehicle collisions at the approximately 227,000 locations across the country where the rails meet the road. Each one of these crossings has the potential for a dangerous collision between a motor vehicle and a train, and the Department intends to make things safer.
To help lower the number of accidents at railroad crossings, we announced today three safety initiatives that will be completed by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) by the end of 2008 that can improve grade crossings safety across the country in the years to come.
We made the announcements as part of our status update of the Department’s ongoing Highway-Rail Crossing Safety and Trespass Prevention Action Plan that was originally released in 2004. This safety campaign has contributed, in part, to a 10.8 percent decline in collisions and a 9.1 percent reduction in fatalities at grade crossings from 2004 to 2007. And while this decline is a good sign, more work needs to be done.
The FRA report released today for the first time details the safety challenges associated with the nearly 87,000 private roadways that cross over railroad tracks and that are not subject to the same federal safety regulations as locations where public roadways cross railroad tracks. The report describes and proposes possible courses of action to improve safety at private crossings by developing a non-regulatory national policy or issuing federal regulations
Also, we announced that FRA’s multi-year research and development plan will be released in the coming months and will support projects focused on innovative and low-cost technologies to modernize existing grade crossing warning devices, improve detection of oncoming trains by motor vehicle drivers, and apply Intelligent Transportation System solutions to crossings.
And finally, since the safest crossing is the one that doesn’t exist, FRA will be publishing a revised guidebook to assist states and communities in closing or consolidating unneeded or little used public grade crossings located along a specific rail corridor while at the same time improving safety at those crossings that remain open. Over 18,000 crossings have been closed since 2004.
Each of these initiatives will help, but grade crossing safety is a shared responsibility and requires lots of actions taken by different people and organizations. If we are going to drive down the number of crossing collisions and fatalities further, everyone needs to do their part including motorists, railroads, law enforcement agencies, judges, traffic safety organizations, and federal, state, and local governments. I am confident that by acting individually and working together, we can get to the point where grade crossing accidents become a thing of the past.
- FRA Administrator Boardman