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Himes, Esty Introduce Rail Crossing Safety Bill After Metro-North Tragedy

Lawmakers from Fairfield County have introduced a bill designed to prevent collisions at grade crossings such as the one in Valhalla, N.Y. in February.
Lawmakers from Fairfield County have introduced a bill designed to prevent collisions at grade crossings such as the one in Valhalla, N.Y. in February. Photo Credit: NTSB

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Fairfield County’s U.S. Reps. Jim Himes and Elizabeth Esty have introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives designed improve safety at highway-rail grade crossings.

The two Democratic representatives introduced the Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Act of 2015 along with U.S. Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).

The move follows the fatal crash last month in Valhalla, N.Y., where a Metro-North train hit an SUV, killing the driver and five passengers, as well as a crash in Oxnard, Calif. last week that injured 30 people and killed one.

The act is intended to provide resources to states and communities to prevent further collisions.

“Recent accidents at highway-rail grade crossings, including the fatal accident in Valhalla that killed a Danbury resident, are unacceptable and completely avoidable,” said Esty, who represents Connecticut’s Fifth Congressional District. “Investing in rail safety programs and supporting innovative grade crossing initiatives will help prevent these tragedies in the future. Our Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Act supports essential rail safety improvements, bringing us one step closer to ensuring safe, reliable rail service for all riders.”

The act seeks to strengthen existing programs, including the Railway-Highway Crossing Program, the Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Grants Safety Program, and the Rail Line Relocation and Improvements Capital Grant Program.

If approved, it would provide resources to build bridges and tunnels to separate roadways from tracks, install improved lighting and signaling at crossings, and increase public awareness of grade crossing dangers.

“Last month’s fatal accident on Metro-North and other similar tragedies nationwide demonstrate the need to improve safety at rail crossings in our communities,” said Himes, who represents Connecticut’s Fourth Congressional District. “This legislation provides concrete steps to raise public awareness and invest in the technology and infrastructure upgrades that are necessary to help keep our drivers and rail passengers safe.”

“These accidents are a wake-up call,” said Maloney, who represents New York’s 18th Congressional District. “While every driver should use caution at rail crossings, there are hundreds of high-hazard, dangerous crossings in New York that need significant improvements, and this important legislation gives local communities the resources they need to upgrade or relocate crossings.”

The bill has been referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Last month U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced a similar bill in the U.S. Senate .

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