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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) yesterday published a final rule requiring 40 states and the District of Columbia to develop and implement highway-rail grade-crossing action plans to improve public safety.
In addition, the rule requires 10 states that already have developed grade-crossing action plans — as required by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA) and FRA's implementing regulation — to update their plans and report on the actions they've taken to implement them.
The final rule responds to a mandate in the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act that requires states to develop, implement or update action plans. Each plan must identify crossings that have been the scene of at least one accident or incident in the previous three years, multiple accidents or incidents in the five years or that are determined by the state to be at high risk for accidents or incidents, FRA officials said in a press release.
Also, each action plan must identify specific strategies for improvement safety at crossings, including crossing closures or realigning roadways over or under railways.
"Grade-crossing accidents and incidents are the second leading cause of rail-related deaths in the United States, but nearly every one of them is preventable," said FRA Administrator Ronald Batory. "The action plans give states a tool to engage with federal and local partners, railroads and rail safety advocates to identify high risk crossings and develop strategies to save lives."
Under RSIA, the FRA identified 10 states — Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio and Texas — as having the most grade-crossing collisions, on average, during the period from 2006 through 2008. In June 2010, the FRA issued a final rule requiring the states to develop action plans and submit them to FRA for approval. The FAST Act now requires each state to submit an updated action plan and report to FRA what the state has done to implement its plan and how it will continue to reduce safety risks at grade crossings.
Under the latest final rule, all 50 states and D.C. are required to submit grade-crossing action plans to the FRA for review and approval no later than 14 months after the rule's Dec. 14 publication in the Federal Register.