The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) yesterday released a list of railroad crossings where the most injuries and fatalities have occurred over the past few years, and reiterated its call to railroads and state departments of transportation to improve safety at crossings.
The list included 15 crossings where 10 or more incidents have occurred over the past decade. Those crossings are located in Arizona, Arkansas, New Jersey, Indiana, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Georgia and Texas.
The FRA tracks safety data at the nation's more than 200,000 railroad crossings. The data show that while fatalities have not occurred at all 15 crossings, the potential for injury and death could be significant due to repeated incidents, FRA and U.S. Department of Transportation officials said in a press release.
"Knowing where repeat injuries and fatalities occur helps states focus their time and resources on areas where they can have an impact," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Preventing incidents and fatalities at railroad crossings is one of the department's top priorities, and I urge states to work with FRA to achieve this life-saving goal."
Many of the 15 high-incident crossings are at busy, multiple lane intersections in neighborhoods with significant truck traffic, or have tracks crossings roadways on a diagonal. Many crossings close to a traffic intersection also have their warning systems interconnected to traffic lights. If sequenced and working correctly, the interconnected systems can help prevent vehicles from stopping over railroad tracks where there is limited roadway between the tracks and the nearby intersection, according to the FRA.
In February, the FRA reissued a safety advisory and sent a letter that called on states to partner with railroads to verify that the interconnected systems account for current highway traffic patterns. [[maybe link to our writeup on this? http://www.progressiverailroading.com/financials/article/FRA-to-states-Check-crossings-connected-to-traffic-lights--47334]] Fifty percent of the crossings FRA released today have interconnected systems.
A spokesman for the Association of American Railroads (AAR) said the organization welcomes the FRA's attention to the crossing safety issue.
"The freight rail industry has been stepping up its focus on educating the public about crossing safety, implementing safety enhancements to upgrade warning systems and actively working with stakeholders such Operation Lifesaver, the Federal Transit Administration and the FRA where we are part of a grade crossing task force," said AAR spokesman Ed Greenberg in an email. "Unfortunately, too many collisions still occur and virtually all of them are preventable."
The freight-rail industry supports working more closely with state DOTs to ensure railroad crossing warning systems that are interconnected to traffic lights are working properly, Greenberg added.
"As our industry continues rigorous rail crossing inspection and maintenance programs, educating the public about crossing safety and collaborating with key stakeholders like the FRA, working more closely with State DOTs is another preventative step," he said.
Greenberg also noted that progress has been made in reducing grade crossing incidents. In 2015, the freight-rail grade crossing collision rate fell 7 percent compared from the collision rate in 2014. The rate is down 45 percent from what it was in 2000.