06.04.15

SCHUMER CALLS FOR AN IMMEDIATE FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION INVESTIGATION, IN LIGHT OF RECENT REPORTS OF MALFUNCTIONING RAIL GRADE CROSSING GATES & SIGNALS THROUGHOUT ROCHESTER AREA – MULTIPLE REPORTS OF GATES FAILING TO FUNCTION AS DESIGNED, CAUSING DRIVERS TO DISREGARD CROSSINGS & PUT LIVES IN DANGER

On Monday, a Chili, NY Man Was Killed at a Grade Crossing on King Road – Local Officials Say The Crossing Gates Were Down But The Driver Drove Around The Gate When He Was Struck By An Amtrak Train
 
But The Accident Prompted Many Local Rochester Residents to Report Instances Where Crossing Gates & Signals Were Not Functioning Properly – Some Say The Gates Will Drop Down For Over Up To Half-An-Hour At a Time, And Remain Closed When No Train is Approaching – Thereby Conditioning Motorists To Disregard The Gates And Put Their Lives in Danger
 
Schumer: Malfunctioning Rail Grade Crossings Could Pose Severe Public Safety Hazard – FRA Must Do a Top-to-Bottom Survey and Examine Data Reports & Determine Their Merit; Results Could Save Lives


U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today, following Monday’s fatal accident at the King Road rail grade crossing and intersection that claimed the life of one Chili, NY man, urged the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to conduct a full investigation of all the rail-grade crossing gates and signals in the Rochester area. Schumer explained that this investigation is needed to ensure that these crossing gates and signals are functioning properly, and as designed, particularly following the crash in which local law enforcement say the driver drove around the gate when he was struck by an Amtrak train. The accident prompted multiple reports from local Rochester area residents that said the crossing gates often drop down when a train is not approaching, conditioning motorists to disregard the gates due to a belief that they are simply malfunctioning and thus the motorists will be able to drive through. Schumer said these reports are troubling and could be leading to motorists unknowingly putting their lives in danger when a train is approaching the intersection because they simply assume the grade crossing’s gates grates and signals are malfunctioning and should be disregarded. Schumer said that while there is no excuse for motorists to ignore crossing gate signals, this tragic accident and the reports of malfunctioning crossing gates merit FRA review.
 
“These reports of malfunctioning rail grade crossings throughout the Rochester area – including at the intersection where this deadly accident occurred – are both shocking and troubling. These gates and signals are meant to protect residents, not condition motorists to disregard and drive around because it is assumed they are not functioning properly. There could be a serious flaw in the system here and these claims must be looked at carefully so we can ensure residents are safe. That is why I am calling on the FRA to investigate the rail grade crossings in the greater Rochester area to ensure they are operating as designed and helping save lives, rather than conditioning people to unknowingly put themselves and their passengers in grave danger,” said Schumer.
 
Schumer explained that, early Monday morning, a young man was tragically killed when he tried to cross the train tracks in his car at the grade crossing on King Road in Chili, NY. According to local officials, the railroad crossing gates were down and the signals were flashing, but the driver drove around the gate when he was struck by an Amtrak train. While in this instance the gates were functioning properly, the incident has prompted media reports from nearby residents that crossing gates at this location, as well as gates in other locations throughout the greater Rochester area, often do not function as designed. Schumer explained that, according to these reports, the crossing gates often drop down when a train is not approaching, thereby conditioning drivers to disregard the gates due to a belief that they are simply malfunctioning. These reports of malfunctioning gates have pointed to railroad crossings across Monroe County including the King Road crossing gate in addition to Ridgeway Avenue in Rochester and Winton Road in Henrietta in Monroe County and others.
 
As a result, Schumer is calling on the FRA to conduct a full investigation throughout the greater Rochester area to ensure that they are operating as designed. In addition, Schumer recently introduced legislation that would improve safety at these crossings – focusing on better education, engineering, and enforcement – for the sake of both drivers and rail passengers across New York State. Schumer’s legislation, The Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Act of 2015, would provide new resources to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), states and communities to make critical engineering and safety upgrades at rail crossings, like installing new lights and signals, particularly at accident-prone crossings. It would also provide grant funding to strengthen education and public awareness of grade crossing dangers, and for law enforcement to reduce violations of traffic laws at crossings.
 
Between 2005 and 2014, there were 341 Railway Grade Crossing Incidents that resulted in 59 fatalities and 96 injuries in New York. In Connecticut during the same period, there have been 49 Railway Grade Crossings Incidents, resulting in 7 deaths and 32 injuries, according to the federal Department of Transportation. Schumer’s legislation – introduced in February – came on the heels of an incident in which a Metro-North train traveling on the Harlem line struck an SUV on its tracks in Valhalla, NY. This accident killed five passengers and the car driver and injured many more, making it the deadliest accident in Metro-North’s history. In 2013, 2,096 accidents at grade crossings killed over 200 people nationwide.
 
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the FRA appears below:
 
Dear Acting Administrator Feinberg:
 
In light of recent reports of malfunctioning grade crossing signals, I write to urge you to investigate rail-grade crossing gates and other signals throughout the greater Rochester area to ensure that they are operating as designed. I also ask that you respond whether there have been any reported crossing gate malfunctions at the King Road intersection in Chili, New York specifically.
 
Early Monday morning, a young man was tragically killed when he tried to cross the train tracks in his car at the grade crossing on King Road in Chili, New York. According to local officials, the railroad crossing gates were down and the signals were flashing, but the driver drove around the gate when he was struck by an Amtrak train. While in this instance the gates were functioning properly, the incident has prompted media reports from nearby residents that crossing gates at this location, as well as gates in other locations throughout the greater Rochester area, often do not function as designed. According to these reports, the crossing gates often drop down when a train is not approaching, conditioning motorists to disregard the gates due to a belief that they are simply malfunctioning and thus the motorists will be able to drive through. These reports of malfunctioning gates have pointed to the King Road crossing gate in addition to Ridgeway Avenue in Rochester and Winton Road in Henrietta in Monroe County and other crossings throughout Monroe County.
 
While there is never any excuse for disregarding grade crossing safety signals and gates, the reports of these malfunctioning gates pose a real concern. I firmly believe that this issue merits FRA review, particularly in light of the 2004 grade crossing double fatality, when a car with two passengers was struck by a CSX train in Henrietta, New York. Prior to that tragic incident, CSX had disabled their crossing gates at that location due to weather damage, and unfortunately the train involved in the crash failed to stop as it approached the intersection. At that grade crossing too, there had been reports of malfunctioning crossing gates and signals.
 
Thank you for your attention to this critical issue. Again, while there is no excuse for motorists to ignore crossing gate signals, this tragic accident and the reports of malfunctioning crossing gates merit FRA review. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.
 
Sincerely,
 
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator

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