03.07.17

SCHUMER CALLS ON FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMIN TO RELEASE MORE THAN $5 MILLION IN LIFE-SAVING FUNDING FOR SAFETY UPGRADES AT VALHALLA GRADE CROSSING & OTHER METRO-NORTH GRADE CROSSINGS; SENATOR SAYS FUNDING WAS AWARDED 6 MONTHS AGO AND SHOULD BE SENT TO NYS IMMEDIATELY

Schumer-Backed ‘Railroad Safety Grants’ Will Install Signal Improvements at Seven Grade Crossings Along Metro-North’s Harlem & Port Jervis Lines; Funds Will Also Be Used to Install CCTV Cameras At 43 Grade Crossings Within Metro-North & LIRR Tracks to Analyze & Study Necessary Safety Measures for the Future

In 2015, a Metro-North Harlem Line Train Struck an SUV in a Valhalla Grade Crossing, Tragically Killing 5 Passengers & the Car’s Driver; Between 2005 and 2014, There Were 341 Railway Grade Crossing Incidents in New York That Resulted in 59 Fatalities and 96 Injuries

Schumer To FRA: Get Safety Upgrades Back on Track

 

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to finalize the last procedural steps to unlock $5.2 million in Railroad Safety Infrastructure Improvement Grants Program funds awarded to the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT). The federal funding will be used to improve the safety of 53 rail grade crossings along Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) lines. As of now NYSDOT has not received any of the funds and negotiations are on-going on specific grant agreements delaying critical upgrades, and leaving important safety improvements undone.  Schumer promised that he would continue to press FRA until the funding is received by New York State.

“The FRA must quickly clear the tracks, and release $5 million in life-saving funding for grade crossing and safety upgrades on and across New York State,” said Senator Schumer. “When it comes to improving rail safety we must take an all-of-the-above approach that includes prioritizing a culture of safety, improving education, and making smart upgrades to dangerous grade crossings. That is why, I’m calling on the Federal Railroad Administration to cut the bureaucratic red tape and release millions of dollars of critical funds which are desperately needed to address some of New York’s most dangerous crossings.”

Schumer said that in 2015 a Metro-North train traveling on the Harlem line struck an SUV on its tracks in Valhalla, NY, killing five passengers and the car driver and injuring many more— it was one of the deadliest accidents in Metro-North’s history. Following the crash the New York State Department of Transportation applied for and was approved for funds that would be used for to improve more than 50 rail grade crossing along Metro-North and Long Rail Road Lines.

 The $5,162,417 in federal funds owed to the NYSDOT will be used across the Metro-North and LIRR system to make critical safety updates. More than $1 million dollars will go to adding  highway traffic signal preemption to seven grade crossings on Metro-North’s Harlem and Port Jervis Lines to activate the traffic signals at the intersections and allow queued traffic to safely exit onto the highway prior to the activation of the railroad grade crossing warning systems. Close to $2 million dollars will be used to install CCTV cameras to record grade crossing movements at 43 identified grade crossings within Metro-North and LIRR territory to investigate specific incidents and analyze operations for targeted modifications to improve safety. Finally, close to $2 million dollars will be used to install upgrades to three grade crossings to mitigate hazardous conditions between highway and rail traffic.             

According to ‘Operation Lifesaver,’ a national nonprofit organization dedicated to rail safety education, a person or vehicle is hit by a train every three hours. Ninety five percent of all fatalities on U.S. railroads are due to people trying to beat a train at a crossing or walking on railroad tracks. Across the country, there are 140,000 miles of railroad track and 212,000 rail-highway grade crossings. Approximately half of public rail crossings are ‘active’ crossings, which have either protective gates or flashing lights to warn whether a train is coming. The other half of public rail crossings are ‘passive’ crossings, which only have a crossbuck sign at the crossing and drivers must slow down to look for an oncoming train. FRA safety data shows that nearly half of crossing collisions are at active crossings.

Schumer has long advocated for railroad safety. In the months that followed the Valhalla accident Senator Schumer along with Senator Blumenthal introduced the Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Act of 2015, which would provide new resources to the Federal Railroad Administration for safety upgrades at rail grade crossings. 

A copy of Schumer’s Letter Appears Below:

Dear Acting Administrator Warren:

I urge you to swiftly obligate the $5.2 million in Railroad Safety Infrastructure Improvement Grants Program funds awarded to the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) in September of 2016 to improve the safety of 53 rail grade crossings along Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) lines. I understand that to date NYSDOT has not received any of the funds and negotiations are on-going on specific grant agreements. These funds are urgently needed to upgrade dangerous grade crossings and reduce the number of accidents, and therefore I’d urge you to expedite the approval of the grant agreements and award the funds as quickly as possible.

As you know, in 2015, a Metro-North train traveling on the Harlem line struck an SUV on its tracks in Valhalla, NY, killing five passengers and the car driver and injuring many more—the deadliest accident in Metro-North’s history. In New York, there are over 5,000 rail grade crossings.  Between 2005 and 2014, there were 341 Railway Grade Crossing Incidents that resulted in 59 fatalities and 96 injuries in New York.

The FRA awarded $5,162,417 in federal funds, provided by the FY 16 Railroad Safety Infrastructure Improvement Grant Program.  Specifically:

  • $1,347,500 in grant funds to be used to add highway traffic signal preemption to seven grade crossings on Metro-North’s Harlem and Port Jervis Lines to activate the traffic signals at the intersections and allow queued traffic to safely exit onto the highway prior to the activation of the railroad grade crossing warning systems. This will ensure motorists, pedestrians and cyclists will have time to clear the crossing before the grates go down.
  • $1,910,785 in grant funds to be used to install CCTV cameras to record grade crossing movements at 43 identified grade crossings within Metro-North and LIRR territory to investigate specific incidents and analyze operations for targeted modifications to improve safety.
  • $1,904,132 in grant funds to be used to install upgrades to three grade crossings to mitigate hazardous conditions between highway and rail traffic. The Metro-North project includes upgrading the roadway, pavement markings and signage in North White Plains. The LIRR project will improve two public highway grade crossings in Deer Park and Oceanside, with preemptive safety equipment and undertake roadway/traffic control improvements.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. The $5.2 million in Railroad Safety Infrastructure Improvement Grants Program funds that have been awarded will help to make a meaningful improvement in railroad safety throughout New York, but the funding must be released in order for these important projects to move forward. Should you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

 

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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