States would be required to develop and implement new or updated highway-rail grade crossing action plans, under a proposed rule by the Federal Railroad Administration.
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“Grade crossing collisions are the second leading cause of rail-related deaths in America, but nearly every one of them is preventable,” says FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. “The action plans provide states a tool to engage with federal and local partners, railroads and rail safety advocates to identify high-risk crossings and develop strategies to save lives.”
The Federal Highway Administration is also addressing rail-highway safety by recently issuing, in partnership with the FRA, the first update in 10 years to the Highway-Rail Crossing Handbook.
The third edition of the handbook was developed with stakeholders and safety advocates, the FHWA says. “The guidance focuses on the physical and operational improvements that can be made at highway-rail grade crossings to enhance the safety and operation of both highway and rail traffic,” the agency says.
The proposed rule requiring state action plans on rail-highway crossings has been published in the Federal Register. Public comments are being accepted until January 6.
The proposal is part of a mandate in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act and calls for 40 states and the District of Columbia to create new action plans. Ten other states previously required to develop plans because of the high rate of car-train collisions would have to provide updates. Those states are Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio and Texas.
Under the proposal, the action plans must identify highway-rail grade crossings that have been the site of collisions or are at high risk for accidents. The plans must set out strategies to improve safety at highway-rail grade crossings, including crossing closures or grade separations. Each plan must also designate a state official to oversee its implementation.
The FRA says it will review the action plans, and after they are approved, they will be posted online.
“These action plans will enable states to prioritize infrastructure and equipment investments at railway crossings using a variety of resources, including federal formula funds and grants,” the agency says.