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Rail News: Communication and Signal

Crossings: GAO report cites growing congestion; Ohio commission OKs 11 upgrades

Increasing freight flows — driven in part by rising crude-oil production — are causing more congestion at grade crossings, according to a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report.

For example, a Miami-area study found that crossings in the region had registered delays of 235,000 manhours per year at a cost of $2.4 million, the report states.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) efforts to implement the freight-related provisions of MAP-21 still are under way, but so far have not fully considered freight-related traffic congestion, GAO officials said in a press release. MAP-21 requires the USDOT to identify best practices to mitigate the impacts of freight movements on communities as part of a national freight strategic plan, which is expected to be developed by October 2015.

Projected increases in freight transportation by rail and truck likely will increase traffic congestion in local communities, the report states.

GAO recommends that Congress consider clarifying the purpose of the primary freight network and revise the mileage limit requirement. In addition, the USDOT should clarify the federal role for mitigating local freight-related congestion in the national freight plan, GAO officials said.

Meanwhile, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) on Wednesday approved funding authorization from the Ohio Rail Development Commission directing Norfolk Southern Railway to upgrade three crossings.

NS will install mast-mounted flashing lights and roadway gates at one crossing in Fairborn and two in South Point. The projects — which must be completed no later than July 1, 2015 — will be covered by federal dollars.

Last month, PUCO also approved funding authorization from the commission directing CSX Transportation to upgrade eight crossings. The work, which must be completed no later than March 17, 2016, also will be funded by federal dollars.

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More News from 10/3/2014