U.S. railroad crossings to get safety boost
The U.S. Transportation Department's Federal Railroad Administration has proposed a rule that would make it easier for the public to report unsafe conditions at highway-rail grade crossings.
The proposal would require railroads to establish toll-free telephone numbers to allow the public to report malfunctioning highway-rail grade crossing warning signals, disabled vehicles blocking crossings, or any other unsafe conditions at crossings. Once the railroad receives a call from the public, train operators in that area would be immediately notified of the unsafe condition in an effort to avoid an accident.
'Giving the public the power to report unsafe conditions at a highway-rail grade crossing can save lives,' said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in a statement.
The proposal would require railroads to post a toll-free telephone number and the Department's National Crossing Inventory identification number at every highway-rail crossing. All of the larger, Class I freight railroads and larger passenger railroads already have some type of system in place to receive notification of unsafe conditions at grade crossings. However, not all smaller railroads have such a system in place, the FRA said.
Based on National Crossing Inventory data from the end of December 2009, the proposed rule would affect 211,401 highway-rail and pathway grade crossings and 594 railroads, the agency said.
The proposed rule is required by the 2008 Rail Safety Improvement Act, and was developed following public outreach efforts by FRA. Read Federal Register notice here. Comments are due to the FRA by May 3.