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DeFazio: GAO finds lack of safety data on longer trains

The study confirmed citizens' beliefs that trains are getting longer, DeFazio said.
Photo – GAO study


A Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on train lengths showed that while the average train length has increased by 25 percent, there is little to no data being collected to measure the impact of longer trains on communities, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) announced last week.

DeFazio, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and others asked for the study in 2017 in response to an increase in constituent complaints about trains blocking grade crossings in their communities.

"Longer trains can create unusually long delays at grade crossings and may pose safety risks to train crews and the public, including impeding the response time for emergency responders," said a committee press release.

Following its study, the GAO recommended that the Federal Railroad Administration implement a safety strategy for very long trains; work with railroads, state and local governments to identify community-specific impacts of train operations — including those of longer trains — where streets and highways cross railroad rights of way; and develop potential solutions to reduce those impacts.

The study confirmed citizens' beliefs that trains are getting longer, DeFazio said.

"But the study also raises a big question about why there is a lack of data about how long trains impact public safety, whether that means a longer wait at a grade crossing that could delay an emergency responder from getting to a patient, or a lack of sufficient training for an engineer who needs a better understanding of how a long train handles on certain sections of track," DeFazio added. "I strongly urge the Federal Railroad Administration to take the recommendations seriously."

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