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FRA needs to step up crossing safety oversight, Office of Inspector General says


The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) believes the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) can do more to improve grade crossing safety.

In a fourth audit report issued last week — a follow-up to an audit report issued in November 2005 — the OIG found the FRA could improve its review of railroads’ crossing collision records and assessment of civil penalties to ensure compliance with mandatory reporting requirements. The OIG also determined the FRA has no assurance that sight obstructions are being addressed at passive crossings — or those without automated warning devices — in most states.

OIG officials recommended the FRA strengthen oversight to ensure railroads comply with mandatory collision reporting requirements by:
• developing and implementing an action plan to conduct periodic reviews of crossing collision records maintained by each railroad and notify railroads when unreported collisions are identified;
• analyzing random samples of collision reports to determine whether the information is accurate, timely and complete; and
• issuing a violation and assessing a civil penalty each time a railroad fails to submit a crossing collision report in accordance with federal requirements.

Officials also recommend the FRA assess higher civil penalties against railroads that repeatedly fail to report crossing collisions and work with the Federal Highway Administration to develop model legislation aimed at helping states improve passive crossing safety.

However, there needs to be “vigilance and sustained cooperation” between the federal government, railroads, states and municipalities to improve crossing safety, said FRA Administrator Joseph Boardman in a prepared statement.

“Reducing the frequency and severity of collisions at highway-rail grade crossings is vital, and we have consistently provided innovative engineering, education and enforcement solutions to help reach that goal,” he said. “We recognize the value of obtaining valid and reliable data, and concur with the OIG’s recommendations that improved data collection and analysis can aid states in determining where safety improvements are made.”

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More News from 5/8/2007