Five commuter rail agencies will receive a total of $40.26 million in grants for highway/rail grade crossing improvements from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The awards are part of round one of the Commuter Authority Rail Safety Improvement (CARSI) Grants Program.
Receiving grants are: Metrolink operator Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA; $14,771,250); Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA; $1,000,000); New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and MTA Metro-North Railroad ($19,728,000); Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA; $3,335,000); and Washington state’s Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority/Sound Transit ($1,421,500).
The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2020, appropriated $50 million in CARSI Grants Program funding to be awarded by FHWA for grade crossing projects, including “those that separate or protect grades at crossings; rebuild existing railroad grade crossing structures; relocate highways to eliminate grade crossings; and eliminate hazards posed by blocked grade crossings due to idling trains.”
By statute, “an eligible commuter authority must have experienced at least one accident investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2018, and for which the NTSB issued an accident report.”
According to FHWA, from 2010 to 2019, the overall number of crossing incidents and fatalities increased by 6.3% and 10.1% respectively, while the overall number of injuries declined by 10.5%.
The commuter rail agencies will use the grants for these projects:
• SCRRA will bring at-grade highway/rail grade crossing up to current standards and add pedestrian gates and right-of-way fencing at Tyler Avenue and at Cogswell Road in El Monte (Los Angeles County).
• MBTA will relocate and reconstruct an existing platform along a single track to eliminate delays at the station located on State Route 92 (Middlesex Avenue) in Wilmington.
• NYSDOT, MTA and Metro-North will upgrade or replace existing at-grade crossing warning systems and reconstruct crossing structures and approaches at nine crossings along the Harlem Line in Winchester, Dutchess and Putnam counties
• SEPTA’s Regional Rail Grade Crossing Safety Enhancements Program will install new gate systems at three crossings and pavement markings at 20 crossings in Bucks, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.
• Sound Transit will install new crossing gate arms, pedestrian signals, elevated concrete pedestrian pads, and detectable warning devices, as well as improve flashing-light signals at 7th Street Northwest and 5th Street Northwest in Puyallup.
FHWA anticipates issuing a Notice of Funding Opportunity to initiate CARSI’s second round of grants—inviting eligible applicants to compete for the remaining funds—in the coming months.
“Separation or protection of grades at crossings will not only improve and ensure the safety of rail passengers, pedestrians and motorists, but will also keep rail moving on time,” Federal Railroad Administrator Ronald Batory said.
“We are committed along with our partners in FHWA and FRA to improving safety around highway-rail crossings,” said K. Jane Williams, Deputy Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration. “Today’s grant announcement will help ensure Americans are safe near rail crossings.”