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Gov. Cuomo, New York legislators implement measures to improve rail safety

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and several top state legislators yesterday announced they reached an agreement on legislation designed to improve rail safety. The agreement includes a series of initiatives aimed at reducing the risk of train-motor vehicle collisions at grade crossings across the state.

The initiatives will require coordinated, frequent inspections of traffic-control devices at crossings, and impose penalties on railroads and repeat offender motorists who continue to disobey the law and ignore safety requirements, state officials said in a press release.

The legislation requires every railroad, municipality or state agency with jurisdiction of a highway that includes a crossing to conduct, at a minimum, biennial inspections of traffic-control devices. The law authorizes the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to establish, implement and exercise oversight over a program to coordinate the joint inspection of traffic-control signals interconnected with crossing warning systems.

The legislation also requires railroads to submit rail bridge inspection reports to NYSDOT according to the same schedule as required by the federal government; imposes monetary penalties up to $5,000 against railroads for each safety violation, such as a failure to immediately notify the state about an accident; and increases penalties for repeat offenders who fail to comply with safety regulations.

A new state law requires frequent inspections of traffic-control devices at crossings. Photo: Gov. Cuomo's Office

The measures will ensure state law conforms to federal safety requirements and aligns with federal railroad bridge inspection requirements, state officials said.

"New York’s railways are critical to this state’s transportation network and we must ensure they meet the highest possible safety standards,” Cuomo said. “By requiring frequent inspections at grade crossings and increasing penalties for those who continue to violate the law and ignore important safety requirements, this agreement will help to reduce the amount of preventable tragedies that have occurred at these crossings over the years.”

Under the agreement, Cuomo also will launch a pilot program to improve motorists’ awareness and behavior at crossings. Existing provisions of New York’s vehicle and traffic law require motorists to observe safe driving behaviors at crossings, but many of them fail to comply with the safety requirements per law enforcement reports, the governor said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/14/2016