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September 2, 2015 2:00 PM, EDT

FRA Offers Grants for Grade-Crossing Safety Features

Miles Davis/Flickr

The Federal Railroad Administration is soliciting applications for $10 million in competitive grants available to states to improve highway-rail grade crossings and track along routes that transport energy products such as crude oil and ethanol. 

“The U.S. Department of Transportation has made increasing safety at highway-rail grade crossings, especially along routes transporting energy products, one of its top priorities,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a release.

There were several high-profile crashes earlier this year in North America of trains carrying crude oil, news reports said.

The guidelines for the grant applications encourage states to include innovative solutions to improve safety at the crossings, FRA said.

Collisions at highway-rail grade crossings are the second-leading cause of all railroad-related fatalities, the agency said.

Last year, 269 individuals died in such collisions, FRA said. While the number of fatalities has decreased for the past several decades, the number increased last year for the first time this decade.

“This money allows the department to support innovative ideas and solutions developed at the local level, and I encourage states to apply for this funding,” Foxx said.

Earlier this year, DOT released its comprehensive rule that raised the bar on the safety of transporting crude oil by rail. The rule requires stronger tank cars and 21st-century electronically controlled pneumatic brakes that activate simultaneously on all tank cars. That reduces the distance and time needed for a train to stop and keeps more tank cars on the track in the event of a derailment.

DOT also has required that railroads transporting crude oil notify state emergency response commissions of the movement of crude oil through individual states.