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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

New Federal Railroad Administration regulations require toll-free telephone numbers posted at crossings


Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced new regulations that require railroads to install signs at grade and pathway crossings that include toll-free telephone numbers the public can call to report unsafe conditions.

Railroads must establish an Emergency Notification System (ENS) by installing “clear and readable signs” with telephone numbers so they can respond to public reports about malfunctioning warning signals, vehicles stalled on tracks or other emergency situations, FRA officials said in a prepared statement. Calls can be received through a 24-hour call center, an automated answering system or third-party telephone service.

If a call is received, the dispatching railroad is required to contact all trains authorized to operate through the crossing, inform local law enforcement to assist in directing traffic, investigate the report or request that the railroad with crossing maintenance responsibility investigate it. If a report is substantiated, the railroad is required to take certain actions to remedy the situation.

“The signs will help reduce the risk of certain highway-rail crossing collisions,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo.

Based on comments the FRA received in response to a proposed rulemaking, railroads without an existing ENS will be required to establish one by July 2015. Railroads that currently have an ENS might be able to retain existing signs or replace signs by July 2015 or July 2017, depending on several factors, FRA officials said.

A regulatory impact analysis shows the rules’ cost to railroads will total about $15.6 million, which is expected to be offset by estimated accident and casualty reduction benefits of $57.8 million over a 15-year period, they said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/13/2012