FRA offering $10 million in grant money for crossing safety

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is soliciting applications from states for $10 million in competitive grant funding to improve highway-rail grade crossings and right-of-way along routes that transport energy products such as crude oil and ethanol. Funding comes from the STEP (Safe Transportation of Energy Products) by Rail program administered by PHMSA (Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration).

FRA’s grant guidelines “encourage states to include innovative solutions to improve safety, especially at highway-rail grade crossings,” said FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg. “Highway-rail grade crossings collisions are the second-leading cause of all railroad-related fatalities. Last year, 269 individuals died in these collisions. While the number of fatalities has decreased for the past several decades, this number increased last year for the first time this decade. 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.”

FRA said that grade crossing incidents “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.’ Earlier this year, FRA ramped up its campaign to prevent collisions and save lives at highway-rail grade crossings through greater education, stronger enforcement and smarter engineering. To accomplish this, FRA developed key partnerships and has worked with Google and other technology companies to integrate FRA’s grade-crossing location data to provide audio and visual alerts when using turn-by-turn navigation applications; partnered with local law enforcement agencies to increase enforcement at railroad crossings; and supported research on grade crossing technology.

Through the GROW AMERICA (Generating Renewal, Opportunity, and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency, and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America) Act, the U.S. Department of Transportation has proposed creating a new grant program that would make $250 million available to local communities for highway-rail grade crossing improvements and other rail infrastructure projects. In addition, USDOT has proposed continuing the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Section 130 grant program for highway-rail grade-crossing projects, which traditionally has been funded annually at $220 million.

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