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U.S. Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.) on Tuesday introduced a bill that calls for improving grade crossing safety by allowing more flexibility in the use of funds allocated by the Federal Highway Administration's Section 130 program.
"Indiana is the crossroads of America. Blocked railroad-highway crossings pose a serious safety risk to Hoosiers and must be updated," said Pence in a press release.
U.S. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) is co-sponsor of the Railway Upgrades for Rural American Lines (RURAL) Act (H.R. 7223). A summary of the bill is pending.
The Section 130 grant program provides funding for projects that eliminate hazards at grade crossings. The program is credited with helping to reduce fatalities at grade crossings. Program funds are eligible for projects at all public crossings, including roadways, bike trails and pedestrian paths. The Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act extended eligibility to include hazards posed by blocked crossings due to idling trains. Currently, Section 130 funds are apportioned to states by formula and funded at a 90 percent federal share.
Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe McGuinness said his department supports the legislation.
"Increasing federal support and enhancing flexibility in this program allows for transportation agencies and railroad operators to eliminate a greater number of rail-highway crossings and more quickly update or replace obsolete equipment making for safer communities across the U.S.," McGuinness said.
U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) is introducing a companion bill in the Senate.
"When I would travel northwest Indiana I would frequently hear about the issue of blocked railroad-highway crossings halting traffic," Braun said.