Bill Would Address Blocked Railroad Crossings

A work train passes through Duluth, Ga., on Feb. 5, 2019. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

Recently introduced legislation would identify and address cases of blocked railroad crossings by examining more than 200,000 grade crossings across the country.

“We’ve got to do a better job ensuring that our highway-railroad crossings aren’t blocking critical routes for emergency responders or causing significant delays or traffic,” U.S. Sen Jon Tester, D-Montana, said in a statement.

“In order to do that, Congress needs better data on these blocked crossings so that we can make our highways safer, more efficient, and get people where they need to go a lot faster,” Tester added. “That’s exactly what this bipartisan bill will do.”

Tester sponsored the bull with U.S. Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Nebr., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan.

In December 2019, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) opened a Blocked Crossing Incident Reporter portal that the public and law enforcement could report blocked grade crossings to the agency.

The bill would authorize this portal as a three-year pilot program, and the FRA would be required to analyze submissions to the portal based on key criteria and provide an analysis to Congress. By authorizing the blocked crossing portal and examining the results, Congress can better understand the scope and severity of blocked crossings and develop policies to address them.

The bill also requires the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to evaluate the requirements of the Section 130 railway-highway grade crossing program. The agency will identify any additional flexibilities in the program that could support states’ efforts to make grade crossings safer.

Tester and Fischer also recently introduced their Right Track Act, which is aimed at bolstering train safety in rural communities across the country by requiring the FRA and FHWA to make recommendations on improving rail safety in rural America, increase public outreach on grade crossing safety, and target resources for grade crossing safety in rural areas.

“There are more than 200,000 highway-railroad crossings across this country,” Fischer said in a statement. “When trains block these crossings, it can cause major inconveniences and even delay first responders.”

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