FRA Grant Funding Available To Improve Rail Crossings

September 9, 2015 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

railroad-1-1313485As a kid, one of the most frightening things I remember when riding in my parents’ car was crossing railroad tracks, which we did almost on a daily basis as several tracks crisscrossed our county. While many had the traditional warning signals and crossing bars, numerous others only had a single sign. If you didn’t know the tracks were there and failed to stop for the sign, these crossings could prove potentially deadly if a train were coming. In addition, some track crossings were located near an intersection with a traffic light, and you could find yourself stuck on the track until the light changed if you weren’t careful. I dreaded crossing the rails every time.

Therefore, I was heartened to see that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) this month was soliciting applications for $10 million in competitive grant funding available to states to improve highway-rail grade crossings and track along routes that transport energy products like crude oil and ethanol.  The guidelines for the grant applications set by the FRA encourage states to include innovative solutions to improve safety, especially at highway-rail grade crossings. The funding is part of the Railroad Safety grants for the Safe Transportation of Energy Products (STEP) by Rail Program.

The FRA noted that highway-rail grade crossings collisions are the second-leading cause of all railroad-related fatalities. Last year, the number of people that died at rail crossings rose for the first time in a decade, with 269 people dying in rail-crossing crashes. Highway-rail grade crossing accidents are frequently the result of a driver’s lack of awareness of a crossing or an oncoming train, or a driver’s attempt to “beat the train.” “Most of these deaths are completely preventable, and that is why the FRA has redoubled its efforts to reverse last year’s upward trend. These funds will allow states to take innovative ideas and make them a reality to increase safety and decrease fatalities,” said FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg.

Hopefully, states can use this funding to make rail crossings more obvious and safer to traverse. Perhaps the kids of tomorrow will feel safer than I did when riding near the rails.

Let us know what you think about these grants. What do you think needs to be done to improve rail-crossing safety?


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