LITTLE ROCK, Ark – A program announced June 30 by the federal Department of Transportation will provide funding to eliminate problem railroad crossings.
The $573 million Railroad Crossing Elimination program provides grant funding for state and local governments to undertake projects to improve crossing safety.
The news of the program caps a week that saw a pair of train crashes that made headlines across the nation, leaving more than half a dozen dead and many others injured.
A June 28 railroad crossing accident in rural Missouri, when a train collided with a crossing dump truck, killed four and injured dozens.
On June 24 a train collided with a car at a crossing in rural northern California, killing three and injuring two. In both cases the crossings had no gates and had been identified for improvement by safety officials.
The U.S. Department of Transportation states that in 2021, there were approximately 2,148 railroad grade crossing incidents, resulting in 236 deaths and 662 injuries.
“In too many communities across America, outdated railroad crossings are unsafe, result in lengthy wait times, and can even create significant delays in our supply chains,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. “With resources from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we can improve rail crossings and help people and goods get where they need to go more safely.”
Projects designated under the program include:
- Grade separation or closure, including using a bridge, embankment, tunnel, or a combination thereof;
- Track relocation;
- Improvement or installation of protective devices, signals, signs, or other;
- Measures to improve safety related to a separation, closure, or track relocation project;
- Other means to improve the safety if related to the mobility of people and goods at highway-rail grade crossings (including technological solutions);
- The planning, environmental review, and design of an eligible project type.
The benefit goes beyond safety, and would also eliminate or reduce delays at crossing, in turn lowering transportation costs for goods being shipped over-road.
The program will be administered by the Federal Railroad Administration, with 20% of the fund designated for rural and tribal areas.
Funding for the crossing improvement grant program was included in the bipartisan infrastructure improvement bill signed into law late last year.
Included in its provisions was $368 million for railroad modernization, targeting 46 “short line” rail projects in 32 states, including $5.6 million funding to add 11,215 feet of track to the Union Pacific Railroad system serving the Port of Little Rock. The funding will also add a locomotive maintenance facility as part of the same project.