September 18, 2020 - TRA Newswire -

Texas Rail Advocates has urged the Texas House Transportation Committee to increase the budget for rail crossing safety, citing that the state ranks #1 in collisions and injuries and #2 in deaths in the U.S. at highway grade crossings.

In a filing with the Texas House Transportation Committee for their interim charge on transportation safety, Texas Rail Advocates pointed out that the state does participate in the Federal Railroad Signal Program (FSP) called Section 130 and receives about $15 million a year from Washington. However that amount, with little to no state funding added, might only be enough to complete one grade-separation project (highway over or under a rail line) or several at-grade safety projects.

According to preliminary 2019 data from the Federal Railroad Administration, there were 251 collisions at highway-rail crossings in Texas. It resulted in 31 deaths and 123 injuries. There were also 100 pedestrian rail trespass casualties in the state that resulted in 56 injuries and 44 deaths.

"While these numbers have been trending down in the last few years there is always room for improvement," according to Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody. "The Section 130 safety program is underfunded for a state our size. We recommend that Texas match the Federal grant on a dollar for dollar basis in the future." The FSP Section 130 is funded with 90% federal participation and 10% from the state.

A recent poll conducted by ENGINE INSIGHTS on behalf of OneRail Coalition showed that 81% of Americans support Congress providing more funding to address railroad crossing safety after learning government statistics show that approximately 95% of all rail-related deaths involve drivers going through a crossing or a person on the tracks.

Texas Rail Advocates also urged the House Transportation Committee to have the Texas Department of Transportation develop a list of the Top 10 rail crossing safety projects and present themĀ  to the Texas Transportation Commission for inclusion in their legislative budget request.