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July 1, 2022 3:22 PM, EDT

USDOT Announces Rail Safety Funding Availability

rail crossingArt Wager/Getty Images

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Funding for rail safety operations around the country was recently announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In the announcement for transportation stakeholders, the department indicated there is nearly $600 million in available funding for grants to be used for the country’s railroad crossing elimination program.

Recipients of the grants would be tasked with using the funds to enhance the safety and eliminate long delays at railroad crossings nationwide. The grants were approved as part of the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, referred to as the bipartisan infrastructure law. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is tasked with managing the program. Transportation agencies have through September to apply for a grant.

FRA “has a strong interest in promoting grade separations, closing crossings through track relocation, and corridor-wide grade crossing improvements that maximize the safety and efficiency of the U.S. rail network,” according to the Federal Register announcement.

“Highway-rail grade crossing accidents, together with accidents caused by trespassing along the railroad right-of-way, account for 94% of all rail-related deaths and injuries. The safest crossing is no crossing, and grade separating or otherwise eliminating crossings is the most direct way to prevent intrusions into the railroad right-of-way,” according to the background. “FRA intends to use the [railroad crossing elimination] program to support the creation of good-paying jobs with the free and fair choice to join a union and the incorporation of strong labor standards and training and placement programs, especially registered apprenticeships and local hire agreements, in project planning stages.”

Added Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on June 30: “In too many communities across America, outdated railroad crossings are unsafe, result in lengthy wait times, and can even create significant delays in our supply chains.”

“With resources from President [Joe] Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law, we can improve rail crossings and help people and goods get where they need to go more safely,” he continued.

FRA Railroad Crossing Elimi... by Transport Topics

“The railroad crossing elimination program will make many grade crossings safer or eliminate them altogether in the coming years,” FRA Administrator Amit Bose added. “The projects funded by the program demonstrate the bipartisan infrastructure law’s lasting impact on communities by strengthening their infrastructure, reducing congestion and saving lives.”

The Association of American Railroads was among the stakeholders touting the funding opportunity. “These funds are a vital, new tool that will save lives and reduce driver delays,” AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies said. “States and other eligible entities are positioned to strategically deploy these dollars and maximize the program’s impact. These types of investments from the bipartisan infrastructure package are win-wins for everyone that enhance safety, reduce driver wait times and keep goods moving across the country.”

The department’s funding opportunity announcement came shortly after an Amtrak train derailed in Missouri after it struck a dump truck. Three people reportedly died and the crash occurred at an uncontrolled intersection without lights or motion gates, according to local authorities.

“I’m deeply saddened to learn of the lives lost and the injuries sustained by those who were involved in the train accident today in Chariton County. I’m thankful for the emergency personnel and first responders from across the state who quickly responded to the accident and my heart goes out to all those affected by this horrible tragedy,” said Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) on June 27. He is the ranking member on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives. “I am in close contact with the National Transportation Safety Board, Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration. My staff and I are available to assist those affected in any way possible.”

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