WASHINGTON (WSLS 10) - The U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) taunched a redesigned website this week to serve as a one-stop shop to help drivers, pedestrians, and law enforcement stay safe around the nation's more than 200,000 railroad crossings and 140,000 miles of track. The new railroad crossing portal is part of the agency's ongoing campaign to reduce fatalities at railroad crossings and tracks to zero by building partnerships that increase education, step up enforcement, and leverage engineering.
"Railroad crossings are in nearly every city and town across America," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "Preventing fatalities at crossings and on tracks takes innovative solutions, increased enforcement actions, and robust safety education efforts. FRA's new website is an important tool to help us achieve our goal of zero deaths at crossings and along tracks."
FRA data show that 96 percent of rail-related fatalities, most of which are preventable, are the result of incidents at railroad crossings and by trespassers. That's why the new FRA portal has more interactive features with downloadable fact sheets on safety and a resource library that is easy to navigate. The site makes accessing information about railroad crossing safety and trespass prevention more streamlined, with a focus on education.
"Ending fatalities at railroad crossings and by trespassers is not a goal FRA can achieve with just another regulation or rule. It will take a strong commitment from everyone – law enforcement, regulators, railroads, and motorists who drive over railroad track every day – and better education," said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. "Providing information on a clean, user friendly, and interactive website will help people stay safe around railroad crossings and tracks and get us one step closer to stopping these preventable deaths."
Last year, FRA launched a new, comprehensive campaign to reverse the uptick in fatalities at railroad crossings. The campaign includes partnering with Google and other tech companies to use FRA data that pinpoints the country's approximately 200,000 railroad crossings to add crossing alerts to map applications. FRA has also worked with local law enforcement to increase enforcement around railroad crossings. In 2015, 244 individuals died at railroad crossings, down from 264 in 2014.
Last month, the FRA awarded nearly $10 million in grants for nine projects in eight states to upgrade and increase the safety of railroad crossings along energy routes. In addition, FRA Administrator Feinberg highlighted the importance of partnerships between the states and railroads in her letter to state DOTs urging them to conduct inspections with railroads on traffic lights connected to railroad crossings. Furthermore, funds available to states through the Federal Highway Administration's Section 130 Program, which provides funds for the elimination of hazards at railway-highway crossings, will increase to $350 million from $220 million in 2016.