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Federal Railroad Administrator: We All Must Do More to Prevent Fatalities at Railroad Crossings

Monday, July 25, 2016

Calls on Congress, railroads, states, tech companies, and others to take greater action

WASHINGTON – In a statement to the railroad industry, states, tech companies and Congress, the Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg today called for greater action to prevent fatalities at the nation’s more than 200,000 railroad crossings. During the last six weeks, there have been three significant incidents, in addition to others, that have killed parents and their children when struck by a train at crossings.

“Over the last six weeks, there have been three significant, tragic railroad crossing incidents. Each took the lives of parents and young children. 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 just this weekend in Arkansas, a mother, her son and two other children were killed.

“These heartbreaking events are in addition to the other 87 people killed and 236 people injured this year at railroad crossings.

“While many of these incidents are still under investigation, we know that they are almost always preventable. And yet, they still happen. Simply put: We must all do more to protect drivers and their passengers, who are frequently children. The responsibility to improve safety at railroad crossings rests on all of us – safety regulators, state and local officials, railroads, law enforcement and even private companies that conduct business in the transportation sector.

“To our state partners: We know you continue to struggle for the necessary funding to close or improve the most dangerous crossings in your state. While the federal government contributes funding to these projects each year through Federal Highways’ Section 130 Program, and in fact has contributed more this year than in years past, states should continue to leverage their funds to prioritize improving safety at the worst railroad crossings, and should apply for federal funds wherever possible.

“To our tech partners: We are grateful for your partnership and for your enthusiasm and willingness to improve safety. But we urge you to integrate our railroad crossing data into your mapping applications and other pertinent technologies as soon as possible. While the full and ultimate safety impact of integrating crossing data into applications remains unknown, we must try everything we can to address this challenge.

“To the Congress: We applaud the additional funding added to Federal Highways’ Section 130 program this year, as well as new funding for a much-needed public media campaign so more people are aware of the dangers of railroad crossings. However, more needs to be done and we encourage you to continue to work with safety regulators, state and local officials, railroads, law enforcement, and private companies.

“To railroads: Along with your continued support for advocacy and awareness campaigns, I hope you will redouble your efforts to integrate new technologies to avoid railroad crossing incidents, and take more aggressive steps to report problematic or dangerous crossings to state and local officials.

“Improving safety and saving lives at railroad crossings has been and continues to be one of the 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. 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.”