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Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx threw cold water Wednesday, July 8, on a Republican plan to privatize large portions of the nation’s air traffic control system.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) is expected to call for the creation of a new non-governmental agency that would take over air traffic control from the Federal Aviation Administration in a forthcoming funding bill for the agency.
Foxx said Wednesday, during a meeting with reporters at the Transportation Department’s headquarters that he did not see the need to remove the federal government from the airplane navigation process.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (PDF) that would improve the process for testing the safety and reliability of new transit buses funded with federal dollars. The proposed rule would establish minimum performance standards, a new pass-fail grading system for bus testing, and a weighted scoring process that would better assist local transit agencies in purchasing an appropriate vehicle.
In addition, the proposed rule would clarify and improve verification of two Departmental regulations: the Buy America requirements that have stimulated American manufacturing of transit vehicles, components and related technology; and the rules that support businesses owned by women and minorities (Disadvantaged Business Enterprises) throughout the supply chain.
“Millions of riders depend on transit buses every day to get to work, school, healthcare, and home again,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “While buses are already a very safe mode of travel, transit customers deserve to know that the buses they ride on are as safe and reliable as possible.”
The proposed rule would require new buses meet minimum thresholds in structural integrity, safety, maintainability, reliability, fuel economy, emissions, noise, and performance. The rule would refine and streamline the existing standardized procedures used by the FTA Bus Testing Facility at Pennsylvania State University’s Larson Transportation Institute in Altoona, Pa.
“When the FTA helps local transit agencies purchase new buses, it is imperative that those vehicles are a high-quality investment,” said FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan. “This proposed rule would help ensure buses are long lasting and low maintenance, saving transit agencies valuable resources and reducing the frustrating delays that riders endure when buses have to be removed from service unexpectedly.”
The proposed bus testing rule was developed following extensive outreach to FTA’s partners across the transit industry, including transit vehicle manufacturers, component suppliers, public transit agencies, and state departments of transportation. Public outreach efforts will continue throughout the comment period to solicit feedback from these and other stakeholders.
The proposed rule was directed by Congress in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). As FTA continues to implement its statutory safety authority under MAP-21, the proposed bus testing rule will be coordinated with FTA’s other safety initiatives.
WASHINGTON – More than 10,000 veterans and active duty personnel have now taken advantage of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Military Skills Test Waiver Program. In the first three years of the Military Skills Test Waiver Program, approximately 6,000 former military personnel obtained a civilian commercial driver’s license (CDL). In the past 12 months alone, another 4,000 individuals, including Reserves, National Guard, and U.S. Coast Guard service members, have taken advantage of the Program.
“It is our duty to help returning veterans transition into civilian life, and I am proud that so many have used this program to secure careers in the transportation sector,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Just as important, we want to put their valuable skills and experience to work driving the Nations’ economy.”
The Military Skills Test Waiver Program, which began in 2011, grants state licensing agencies, including the District of Columbia, the authority to waive the skills test portion of the CDL application for active duty or recently separated veterans who possess at least two years of safe driving experience operating a military truck or bus. Waiving the skills test expedites the civilian CDL application process and reduces expenses for qualified individuals and operating costs to state licensing agencies.
“In the near future, the need for skilled truck drivers is expected to grow dramatically,” said FMCSA Chief Counsel Scott Darling. “Having skillful and experienced drivers operating on our roadways will lead to increased safety for every member of the motoring public.”
The USDOT/FMCSA Military Skills Test Waiver Program has been conducted in close cooperation with the Department of Defense and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA).
Additional information, including a standardized application form accepted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, is available by clicking here.
WASHINGTON — The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today issued a safety advisory recommending actions that passenger railroads take to prevent trains from speeding. The advisory is the latest in a series of steps FRA has taken to keep passenger railroads safe for the traveling public.
“Today the FRA is taking a smart and targeted approach to addressing a major issue involved in recent passenger rail accidents,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Safety is our top priority at the Department, and today’s advisory is but one step we are taking to raise the bar on safety for passenger rail.”
The FRA recommends that passenger railroads immediately take the following actions to control passenger train speeds:
Identify locations where there is a reduction of more than 20 mph from the approach speed to a curve or bridge and the maximum authorized operating speed for passenger trains at that curve or bridge.
Modify Automatic Train Control (ATC) systems (if in use) to ensure compliance with speed limits.
If the railroad does not use ATC, ensure that all passenger train movements through the identified locations be made with a second qualified crew member in the cab of the controlling locomotive, or with constant communication between the locomotive engineer and an additional qualified and designated crewmember in the body of the train.
Install additional wayside signage alerting engineers and conductors of the maximum authorized passenger train speed throughout the passenger railroad’s system, with particular emphasis on additional signage at the identified locations.
“The FRA fully expects passenger railroads to take immediate action and implement these recommendations,” said Acting Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg. “We will continue to take action in the coming weeks to prevent human error from causing accidents and to keep passengers safe on the nation’s railroads.”
To view a copy of the Safety Advisory, click here.
WASHINGTON – With federal surface transportation funding set to expire on May 31, thousands of stakeholders will rally together for Infrastructure Week to urge Congress to say “no” to more short-term measures and “yes” to a long-term funding solution. In support of the third annual Infrastructure Week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is participating today in kick-off events in Washington and will then head out to meet with state and local leaders, business leaders, and academics in Tennessee, California, and Iowa.
“Our nation’s economy and the way we live both depend on having strong infrastructure,” Secretary Foxx said. “But the truth is that our current levels of investment are falling short of what is needed just to keep our existing system safe and in good condition. To make matters worse, over the past six years, Congress has passed 32 short-term measures that have stripped away the ability of state and local governments to complete big projects.”
Today, Secretary Foxx also sent letters to State Transportation leaders to notify them that all federal participation in highway transportation infrastructure construction will stop after May 31 if the current federal funding authorization is allowed to expire. Without authority to continue funding agency operations, States will not be reimbursed for construction costs or receive technical support and will have to shoulder the burden themselves. Click here to see a copy of the letters.
Throughout the week, Secretary Foxx will highlight an alternative to that funding shortage, which is the Obama Administration’s GROW AMERICA Act, a surface transportation bill that would provide six years of funding certainty and grow overall investment by 45 percent. The $478 billion proposal would increase funding in our roads, highways and transit systems, and for the first time would provide dedicated funding for passenger rail, rail safety, and a national freight program.
Secretary Foxx’s trip will begin in Tennessee, a state that has a $6 billion backlog in highway projects, according to the Tennessee Department of Transportation. He will visit two projects that would improve safety for drivers and reduce traffic congestion, but both are delayed due to inadequate federal funding. On Tuesday, May 12, in Knoxville, Secretary Foxx will meet with Mayor Madeline Rogero and the Knoxville Regional Transportation Planning Organization to discuss the proposed Alcoa Highway project. Later in the morning, the Secretary will hold a media availability with Knoxville Mayor Rogero, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, and, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson at the Knoxville Convention Center. He will then travel to Memphis where he will be joined by Mayor AC Wharton, and the Memphis Urban Planning Organization to discuss the Lamar Avenue project.
On Wednesday, May 13, Secretary Foxx will visit Delphi Labs in California’s Silicon Valley to announce new connected automation safety initiatives. This visit will build on the national conversation he launched earlier this year with the release of Beyond Traffic, a report that examines how new technologies and public policy will shape U.S. transportation systems to enable new safety, mobility, growth, and economic benefits for our future.
The next day he will travel to Los Angeles to join Mayor Garcetti at the construction site of the soon-to-be-finished Division 13 Bus Maintenance and Operations Facility. The project was funded by the Federal Transit Administration and demonstrates the potential of increased transit investment to create jobs and greener infrastructure.
Secretary Foxx’s Infrastructure Week tour will conclude Friday, May 15, in Des Moines, Iowa, with a visit to the Southeast Connector Project, which is a crucial element in a series of infrastructure enhancements that will revitalize industrial areas, create jobs, and improve road safety.
“When you have had 32-short term measures in six years, any funding bill put forward that is actually big enough to meet the country’s challenges will be labeled by some as unrealistic,” Secretary Foxx said. “But I also think it is unrealistic to think that if we continue underinvesting in infrastructure that we will be able to meet the needs of 70 million more people in 30 years. We are in a big ditch, and we have to take some bold steps forward and solve it with a big solution.”
Infrastructure Week has nearly 80 affiliate organizations in business, labor, and advocacy, including the National Association of Manufacturers, American Society of Civil Engineers, AFL-CIO, Brookings Institution, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Building America’s Future. More than 40 events will be held to highlight the need and benefits of modernizing America’s infrastructure.
Washington, D.C. — The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) and its 32 member unions hosted a Roundtable with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx April 30 to urge action on a broad policy agenda unveiled by TTD unions in February:
“Washington, DC is too often defined by dysfunction and inaction,” said TTD President Edward Wytkind, following the Roundtable. “Today’s dialogue with Secretary Foxx focused on how we can cooperate to break this cycle of gridlock and make meaningful progress on the transportation issues that confront the nation.”
“Working to ensure critical investments in our transportation system has always been one of TTD’s greatest strengths,” said Secretary Foxx. “At the Department of Transportation, we recognize our transportation union partners as essential allies in keeping workers safe and maintaining America’s competitiveness in the global economy.”
A major topic of discussion is how the Administration can work with TTD affiliates and Congress to finally complete the rewrite of several overdue transportation laws including the highway/transit, aviation, rail safety, Amtrak and hazardous materials reauthorizations.
“Our unions emphasized the need for action on legislative initiatives that protect good transportation jobs, expand transportation investments and address mounting safety threats,” Wytkind said. “We also warned against wrongheaded reforms that would undermine collective bargaining rights or worker protections in our laws.”
TTD affiliates pressed for strong enforcement of aviation trade agreements to ensure U.S. airlines and their employees can compete on a level playing field. And TTD unions urged more action to fortify and expand the U.S.-flag maritime sector and specifically the Maritime Security Program.
“We will continue to engage on globalization and trade issues that if left unchecked, threaten to destroy the middle class jobs that for decades have been the cornerstone of the transportation sector,” Wytkind added.
Rule will make significant and extensive changes to improve accident prevention, mitigation and emergency response
WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today announced a final rule for the safe transportation of flammable liquids by rail. The final rule, developed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), in coordination with Canada, focuses on safety improvements that are designed to prevent accidents, mitigate consequences in the event of an accident, and support emergency response.
Unveils a new, enhanced tank car standard and an aggressive, risk-based retrofitting schedule for older tank cars carrying crude oil and ethanol;
Requires a new braking standard for certain trains that will offer a superior level of safety by potentially reducing the severity of an accident, and the “pile-up effect”;
Designates new operational protocols for trains transporting large volumes of flammable liquids, such as routing requirements, speed restrictions, and information for local government agencies; and
Provides new sampling and testing requirements to improve classification of energy products placed into transport.
Canada’s Minister of Transport, Lisa Raitt, joined Secretary Foxx to announce Canada’s new tank car standards, which align with the U.S. standard.
“Safety has been our top priority at every step in the process for finalizing this rule, which is a significant improvement over the current regulations and requirements and will make transporting flammable liquids safer,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Our close collaboration with Canada on new tank car standards is recognition that the trains moving unprecedented amounts of crude by rail are not U.S. or Canadian tank cars – they are part of a North American fleet and a shared safety challenge.”
“This stronger, safer, more robust tank car will protect communities on both sides of our shared border,” said Minister Raitt. “Through strong collaboration we have developed a harmonized solution for North America’s tank car fleet. I am hopeful that this kind of cooperation will be a model for future Canada-U.S. partnership on transportation issues.”
Other federal agencies are also working to make transporting flammable liquids safer. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Energy (DOE), in coordination with the White House, are pursuing strategies to improve safety. DOE recently developed an initiative designed to research and characterize tight and conventional crude oils based on key chemical and physical properties, and to identify properties that may contribute to increased likelihood and/or severity of combustion events that can arise during handling and transport.
This final rule represents the latest, and most significant to date, in a series of nearly 30 actions that DOT has initiated over the last nineteen months, including additional emergency orders, safety advisories and other actions.
Additional information about the rule:
(Unless stated otherwise, the rule applies to “high-hazard flammable trains” (HHFTs)—a continuous block of 20 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid or 35 or more tank cars loaded with a flammable liquid dispersed through a train.).
Enhanced Standards for New and Existing Tank Cars for use in an HHFT—New tank cars constructed after October 1, 2015, are required to meet the new DOT Specification 117 design or performance criteria. The prescribed car has a 9/16 inch tank shell, 11 gauge jacket, 1/2 inch full-height head shield, thermal protection, and improved pressure relief valves and bottom outlet valves. Existing tank cars must be retrofitted with the same key components based on a prescriptive, risk-based retrofit schedule (see table). As a result of the aggressive, risk-based approach, the final rule will require replacing the entire fleet of DOT-111 tank cars for Packing Group I, which covers most crude shipped by rail, within three years and all non-jacketed CPC-1232s, in the same service, within approximately five years.
Enhanced Braking to Mitigate Damage in Derailments—The rule requires HHFTs to have in place a functioning two-way end-of-train (EOT) device or a distributed power (DP) braking system. Trains meeting the definition of a “high-hazard flammable unit train,” or HHFUT (a single train with 70 or more tank cars loaded with Class 3 flammable liquids), with at least one tank car with Packing Group I materials, must be operated with an electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking system by January 1, 2021. All other HHFUTs must have ECP braking systems installed after 2023. This important, service-proven technology has been operated successfully for years in certain services in the United States, Australia, and elsewhere.
Reduced Operating Speeds—The rule restricts all HHFTs to 50 mph in all areas and HHFTs containing any tank cars not meeting the enhanced tank car standards required by this rule are restricted to operating at a 40 mph speed restriction in high-threat urban areas. The 40 mph restriction for HHFTs without new or retrofitted tank cars is also currently required under FRA’s Emergency Order No. 30.
Rail Routing – More Robust Risk Assessment—Railroads operating HHFTs must perform a routing analysis that considers, at a minimum, 27 safety and security factors, including “track type, class, and maintenance schedule” and “track grade and curvature,” and select a route based on its findings. These planning requirements are prescribed in 49 CFR §172.820.
Rail Routing – Improves Information Sharing—Ensures that railroads provide State and/or regional fusion centers, and State, local and tribal officials with a railroad point of contact for information related to the routing of hazardous materials through their jurisdictions. This replaces the proposed requirement for railroads to notify State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) or other appropriate state-designated entities about the operation of these trains through their States.
More Accurate Classification of Unrefined Petroleum-Based Products—Offerors must develop and carry out sampling and testing programs for all unrefined petroleum-based products, such as crude oil, to address the criteria and frequency of sampling to improve and ensure accuracy. Offerors must certify that hazardous materials subject to the program are packaged in accordance with the test results, document the testing and sampling program outcomes, and make that information available to DOT personnel upon request.
The actions taken today address several recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board, including: requiring enhanced safety features for tank cars carrying ethanol and crude oil and an aggressive schedule to replace or retrofit existing tank cars; requiring thermal protection and high-capacity pressure relieve valves for tank cars in flammable liquid service, expanding hazardous materials route planning and selection requirements for trains transporting flammable liquids; inspecting shippers to ensure crude oil is properly classified and requiring shippers to sufficiently test and document both physical and chemical characteristics of haza rdous materials; and providing a vehicle for reporting the number of cars retrofitted.
You can view a summary of the rule here and the entire rule here. For additional information on the steps the Department of Transportation has already taken to help strengthen the safe transport of crude oil by rail, please visit www.dot.gov/mission/safety/rail-chronology.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today announced with its agencies, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), a package of targeted actions that will address some of the issues identified in recent train accidents involving crude oil and ethanol shipped by rail. The volume of crude oil being shipped by rail has increased exponentially in recent years, and the number of significant accidents involving trains carrying ethanol or crude oil is unprecedented.
“The boom in crude oil production, and transportation of that crude, poses a serious threat to public safety,” stated U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The measures we are announcing today are a result of lessons learned from recent accidents and are steps we are able to take today to improve safety. Our efforts in partnership with agencies throughout this Administration show that this is more than a transportation issue, and we are not done yet.”
These actions represent the latest in a series of more than two dozen that DOT has initiated over the last nineteen months to address the significant threat to public safety that accidents involving trains carrying highly flammable liquids can represent. Today’s announcement includes one Emergency Order, two Safety Advisories, and notices to industry intended to further enhance the safe shipment of Class 3 flammable liquids.
Preliminary investigation of one recent derailment indicates that a mechanical defect involving a broken tank car wheel may have caused or contributed to the incident. The Federal Railroad Administration is therefore recommending that only the highest skilled inspectors conduct brake and mechanical inspections of trains transporting large quantities of flammable liquids, and that industry decrease the threshold for wayside detectors that measure wheel impacts, to ensure the wheel integrity of tank cars in those trains.
Recent accidents revealed that certain critical information about the train and its cargo needs to be immediately available for use by emergency responders or federal investigators who arrive on scene shortly after an incident. To address the information gap, DOT is taking several actions to remind both the oil industry and the rail industry of their obligation to provide these critical details
PHMSA is issuing a safety advisory reminding carriers and shippers of the specific types of information (*listed below) that they must make immediately available to emergency responders;
FRA and PHMSA are issuing a joint safety advisory requesting that specific information (*listed below) also be made readily available to investigators;
FRA is sending a request to the Association of American Railroads asking the industry to develop a formal process by which this specific information (*listed below) becomes available to both emergency responders and investigators within 90 minutes of initial contact with an investigator, and;
FRA submitted to the Federal Register a notice proposing to expand the information collected on certain required accident reports, so that information specific to accidents involving trains transporting crude oil is reported.
DOT has determined that public safety compels issuance of an Emergency Order to require that trains transporting large amounts of Class 3 flammable liquid through certain highly populated areas adhere to a maximum authorized operating speed limit of 40 miles per hour in High Threat Urban Areas. Under the EO, an affected train is one that contains: 1) 20 or more loaded tank cars in a continuous block, or 35 or more loaded tank cars, of Class 3 flammable liquid; and, 2) at least one DOT Specification 111 (DOT-111) tank car (including those built in accordance with Association of American Railroads (AAR) Casualty Prevention Circular 1232 (CPC-1232)) loaded with a Class 3 flammable liquid.
“These are important, common-sense steps that will protect railroad employees and residents of communities along rail lines. Taking the opportunity to review safety steps and to refresh information before moving forward is a standard safety practice in many industries and we expect the shipping and carrier industries to do the same,” said Acting FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg.
“Our first priority is to prevent these accidents from ever happening,” stated Acting PHMSA Administrator Tim Butters. “But when accidents do occur, first responders need to have the right information quickly, so we are reminding carriers and shippers of their responsibility to have the required information readily available and up to date.”
The actions taken today coincide with actions being taken by other government agencies including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Energy (DOE).
*Information required by PHMSA Safety Advisory:
Basic description and technical name of the hazardous material the immediate hazard to health;
Risks of fire or explosion;
Immediate precautions to be taken in the event of an accident;
Immediate methods for handling fires;
Initial methods for handling spills or leaks in the absence of fire;
Preliminary first aid measures; and
24-hour telephone number for immediate access to product information.
*Information sought by U.S. DOT in the event of a crude-by-rail accident:
Information on the train consist, including the train number, locomotive(s), locomotives as distributed power, end-of-train device information, number and position of tank cars in the train, tank car reporting marks, and the tank car specifications and relevant attributes of the tank cars in the train.
Waybill (origin and destination) information
The Safety Data Sheet(s) or any other documents used to provide comprehensive emergency response and incident mitigation information for Class 3 flammable liquids
Results of any product testing undertaken prior to transportation that was used to properly characterize the Class 3 flammable liquids for transportation (initial testing)
Results from any analysis of product sample(s) (taken prior to being offered into transportation) from tank car(s) involved in the derailment
Date of acceptance as required to be noted on shipping papers under 49 CFR § 174.24.
If a refined flammable liquid is involved, the type of liquid and the name and location of the company extracting the material
The identification of the company having initial testing performed (sampling and analysis of material) and information on the lab (if external) conducting the analysis.
Name and location of the company transporting the material from well head to loading facility or terminal.
Name and location of the company that owns and that operates the terminal or loading facility that loaded the product for rail transportation.
Name of the Railroad(s) handling the tank car(s) at any time from point of origin to destination and a timeline of handling changes between railroads.
Since 2013 there have been 23 crude-related train accidents in the United States with the majority of incidents occurring without the release of any crude oil product.
WASHINGTON – Over the past year, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has visited more than 100 communities and heard one common story – shared by all – about crumbling infrastructure and dwindling resources to fix it with. Secretary Foxx March 30 sent to Congress his solution to this problem: a long-term transportation bill that provides funding growth and certainty so that state and local governments can get back in the business of building things again.
The GROW AMERICA Act reflects President Obama’s vision for a six-year, $478 billion transportation reauthorization bill that invests in modernizing America’s infrastructure. As lawmakers try to fund transportation beyond May 31, GROW AMERICA provides members of the House of Representatives and Senate with the option of increasing investment in surface transportation by 45 percent, and supporting millions of jobs repairing and modernizing roads, bridges, railroads and transit systems in urban, suburban, and rural communities.
“All over the country, I hear the same account: the need to repair and expand our surface transportation system has never been greater, and yet federal transportation funding has never been in such short supply,” Secretary Foxx said. “Our proposal provides a level of funding and also funding certainty that our partners need and deserve. This is an opportunity to break away from 10 years of flat funding, not to mention these past six years in which Congress has funded transportation by passing 32 short-term measures.”
A recent study by the department, Beyond Traffic, confirmed that America’s infrastructure is failing. Drivers spend more than 40 hours annually stuck in traffic. Sixty-five percent of the roads they drive on are in less than good condition; one out of four bridges they cross needs to be replaced; and public transit faces an $86 billion repair backlog. The report also revealed that, over the next 30 years, Americans will ask more of our transportation system than ever before. The United States’ population will grow by 70 million; freight traffic will increase by 45 percent.
But rather than doing more, funding uncertainty has forced many states to do less instead. Tennessee, Arkansas, Delaware, and Wyoming have delayed more than a billion dollars in projects. Georgia, alone, has set aside $715 million in projects, while Mississippi has shifted its transportation dollars only to smaller maintenance efforts. As it stands, total investment in our roads, bridges, and transit systems is falling well below the level that is needed to keep them in good condition.
The GROW AMERICA Act will chart a new course. For one, it will increase investment in all forms of transportation, which will restore the ability of states and local governments to plan for both needed repairs and efforts that increase capacity to meet future demand. Additionally, the proposal ensures that taxpayer dollars are used more effectively and efficiently, and brings federal transportation policy into the 21st century. It will:
Increase safety across all modes of transportation, including by almost tripling the budget of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s automobile defects office;
Establish an $18 billion freight program so American businesses can compete effectively in a global economy and grow;
Increase connections so that more Americans have access to jobs and education, including by raising transit investment by 76 percent;
Put in place a transparent and clear permitting process to speed up project delivery;
Increase innovative financing by strengthening Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) and Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan programs, by making more Private Activity Bonds (PABS) available, and by nearly doubling funding for our TIGER grant program; and
Empower local government by providing more funding to high-performing Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs).
“It is clear to me that transportation is still a bipartisan issue, and I am really encouraged to see members of both parties working to get something done,” Secretary Foxx said. “During these next two months, though, all of us who work in Washington need to be relentless in trying to get to ‘yes’ on a bill that is truly transformative and that brings the country together. And frankly, governors and state officials as well as mayors and local officials all over the country need to continue being relentless, too, by continuing to raise their voices in support of a transportation bill that meets both their immediate and long-term needs.”
For state fact sheets, and to learn how much more transportation funding your state will have if Congress passes the GROW AMERICA Act, go to www.dot.gov/growamerica.
WASHINGTON – As part of its ongoing effort to improve safety at railroad grade crossings, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Feb. 27 announced the first step in a new, multi-faceted campaign aimed at strengthening enforcement and safety awareness at grade crossings. The first phase of this effort calls upon local law enforcement agencies to show a greater presence at grade crossings, issue citations to drivers that violate rules of the road at crossings and consider rapid implementation of best practices for grade crossing safety.
The next phase of FRA’s efforts to improve safety at grade crossings will aim to employ smarter uses of technology, increase public awareness of grade crossing safety, including distracted driving, improve signage, work closer in partnership with states and local safety agencies, and call for new funding for greater safety at grade crossings.
“Recent accidents in New York and California are important reminders of our shared challenge to both educate the public about grade crossing safety, and to enforce appropriate behavior around railroad operations,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Grade crossing and trespassing accidents are serious challenges to maintaining public safety. Every three hours of every day, someone is hit by a train in the United States and we must do all we can to heighten public awareness, strengthen enforcement efforts and pioneer new technologies to better secure public safety.”
There are 250,711 grade crossings in the United States; about 51 percent of those are public-at-grade crossings. Only half of all public grade crossings have automatic-warning systems and only a third have flashing lights and gates. Approximately 15 percent of all grade crossings are grade separated – the safest of all crossings – meaning railroad traffic is completely separated from vehicle and pedestrian traffic.
States and localities have traditionally played the most significant role in determining the type of warning system present at grade crossings, with most system decisions determined by traffic levels. Upgrades to existing grade crossings are also the responsibility of states and local communities. Under federal law and regulations, railroads are responsible for inspecting, testing, and maintaining highway-rail grade crossings. The FRA issues and enforces regulations on crossing safety, issues guidance on best practices and conducts research on ways to improve crossings safety.
Additionally, the federal government provides more than $287.9 million annually to states to help improve and enhance safety at public grade crossings.
“The reality is that while the overall number of deaths and injuries from grade crossing incidents has come down significantly over the last two decades, this remains a serious problem. We can and should be doing everything we possibly can to keep drivers, pedestrians, and train crews and passengers safe at grade crossings,” said Sarah Feinberg, Acting Administrator at the Federal Railroad Administration. “In addition to this renewed outreach to law enforcement, FRA will take a fresh look at our grade crossing programs and activities.”
Facts on grade crossings:
239 people were killed and 763 people were injured in grade crossing incidents in 2014.
In Fiscal Year 2014 the top ten states with the most grade crossing accidents in ranking order include: Texas; California; Illinois; Indiana; Georgia; Alabama; Louisiana; Ohio; Florida; Tennessee.
The FRA, in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration and State Departments of Transportation have worked together with railroads to close more than 18,000 grade crossings nationwide since 2008.
To learn more about the problem at grade crossings or to view our Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Resource Guide for reporters, visit our press room at http://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0095.