FRA Wants More Action to Prevent Grade Crossing Fatalities

A CSX train passes through Marietta, Ga., in August 2015. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

The administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration is calling for greater action to prevent fatalities at the nation’s more than 200,000 railroad crossings.

The call from Sarah E. Feinberg comes several significant incidents in recent weeks that have killed parents and their children at railroad crossings.

“Over the last six weeks, there have been three significant, tragic railroad crossing incidents. Each took the lives of parents and young children,” Feinberg said in a release. “In San Leandro, California, a mother and her 3-year-old child were killed. In Colorado, a mother, a father and three of their four young children were killed on the way to church. And several days ago in Arkansas, a mother, her son and two other children were killed.

“These heartbreaking incidents are in addition to the other 87 people killed and 236 people injured this year at railroad crossings,” Feinberg added.

Last year, FRA launched a new, comprehensive campaign to reverse the uptick in fatalities at railroad crossings. The campaign includes partnering with tech companies to use FRA data that pinpoints the country’s approximately 200,000 railroad crossings and add crossing alerts to map applications. FRA has also worked with local law enforcement to increase enforcement around railroad crossings. In 2015, 244 individuals died at railroad crossings, down from 264 in 2014.

Those efforts have continued in 2016. In March, FRA launched a redesigned website to serve as a one-stop shop to help drivers, pedestrians and law enforcement stay safe around railroad crossings.

The launch follows the agency’s award of nearly $10 million in grants for nine projects in eight states to upgrade and increase the safety of railroad crossings along energy routes. The federal agency also released a list of railroad crossings with most incidents over last decade and offered both technical and financial assistance to increase safety at these and other crossings.

“The responsibility to improve safety at railroad crossings rests on all of us – safety regulators, state officials, the railroads themselves, law enforcement and even the private companies that conduct business in the transportation sector,” Feinberg said.

“Improving safety and saving lives at railroad crossings has been and continues to be one of FRA’s highest priorities. We have put more focus and attention on this problem than ever before – through funding, a brighter public spotlight, new attention from FRA safety specialists, new research, new partnerships with tech companies and law enforcement and more aggressive and frequent investigations,” Feinberg said. “We will continue to do all that we can to have a greater impact on this solvable challenge – and we urge our partners and friends to join us.”