The Federal Railroad Administration(FRA) today advised state departments of transportation to verify that railroad crossing warning systems interconnected to traffic lights are functioning properly to avoid collisions between trains and motor vehicles.
The agency also called on states to add event recorders to traffic lights connected to crossings to provide inspectors with information that can be used to improve safety. Currently, there are 5,000 such crossings in the United States.
While railroads are required to inspect lights and gates at crossings monthly, the FRA has urged states before — and did so again in its safety advisory today — to have traffic experts periodically join railroads on those inspections. During those joint inspections, traffic experts and railroads should verify that the traffic lights and crossing signals are properly sequenced so that enough time is provided for traffic to clear an intersection before a train enters the crossing, FRA officials said.
"Simply put: We strongly recommend that state and local transportation officials, together with railroad officials, visit crossings in their region and monitor and test crossing signals and adjacent traffic signals to ensure that the signals are synced and operating properly," Feinberg wrote in the advisory to state transportation leaders.
In 2015, the FRA launched a new campaign to reverse a recent increase in railroad crossing fatalities. The campaign includes partnering with Google and other technology companies to use FRA data that pinpoints the nation's 200,000 railroad crossings to add visual and audio alerts to map applications.