Freight Rail Policy Stance: The freight rail industry supports dedicated funding for the Section 130 program, which provides funds to eliminate hazards at highway-rail grade crossings. The program has been a huge success, helping prevent thousands of accidents and fatalities since its inception in 1987.
A highway-rail grade crossing is where a railway and roadway intersect at the same level; there are more than 200,000 grade crossings in the United States.
Although railroads spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually to maintain and upgrade grade crossings nationwide, it is the states — not railroads — that evaluate grade crossing risks and prioritize grade crossings for improvement.
Under the federal “Section 130” program, more than $230 million in federal funds are allocated annually for states to install new active warning devices, upgrade existing devices and improve grade crossing surfaces. Thanks in part to the Section 130 federal program, grade crossing collisions are down 37% between 2000 and 2019. Continued dedicated funding of this important program will help avert injuries and save lives at grade crossings. Section 130 funding also helps ensure grade crossings needs can compete with more traditional highway needs, such as highway construction and maintenance.
95% of rail-related deaths involve drivers going through grade crossings or a person on the tracks — and with safe driver and pedestrian behavior, most of these are preventable. Railroads collaborate every day with federal, state and local officials and the public to improve grade crossing safety and promote safe driver and pedestrian behavior. These safety efforts include a deep partnership with Operation Lifesaver (OLI), a nationwide non-profit organization that has helped keep drivers and pedestrians around railroad tracks since 1972. Together, the AAR and OLI launched the nationwide See Tracks? Think Train! public service campaign and collaborate annually on Rail Safety Week.
We all have a role to play in keeping people safe around railroad tracks and the focus should remain on educating the public regarding safety at crossings, developing engineering solutions (such as closing unneeded crossings and upgrading warning devices) that prevent collisions and enforcing applicable traffic laws.