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Senate Dems seek more money for railway crossings

Senate Dems seek more money for railway crossings
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A pair of Senate Democrats is seeking to increase funding for the Federal Railroad Administration to boost U.S. railway crossing safety after a fatal accident on New York’s Metro-North commuter rail system.

Sens. Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerDOJ to probe Trump-era subpoenas of lawmaker records Democrats demand Barr, Sessions testify on Apple data subpoenas Out-of-touch Democrats running scared of progressives MORE (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have filed a bill that would “provide new resources to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), states and communities to make critical engineering and safety upgrades at rail crossings, like installing new lights and signals, particularly at accident-prone crossings,” according to the lawmakers’ offices. 

The senators said the legislation, which has been dubbed the “Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Act of 2015,” will help prevent accidents like the Metro-North  crash, which killed seven people. 

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“We must improve safety at rail crossings for the sake of our drivers and rail passengers,” Schumer said in a statement. 

“While the precise cause of the Metro-North crash in Valhalla is still under investigation, it’s crystal clear that the existence of the rail grade crossing played at least some role in the fatal, tragic accident, and this new legislation will focus on providing new resources to the Federal Railroad Administration, states and localities to help make much-needed improvements at many rail grade-crossings and help eliminate future collisions,” he continued. “Improved safety must rise from this dark tragedy.”

Blumenthal agreed, saying “without the decisive steps we urge, rail grade crossings will continue to be accidents waiting to happen.

“Every year, there are more than 2,000 such collisions nationally, causing over 230 deaths and nearly 1,000 injuries,” Blumenthal said. “Our proposal will bring rail grade crossings into the 21st century by implementing new technology, raising awareness, and providing resources. Too many innocent victims, drivers, train passengers, and railroad employees have died needlessly or suffered serious injuries because of inadequate warnings and a lack of accident avoidance technologies.” 

The accident occurred on Feb. 3 when a train on Metro-North’s “Harlem Line” collided with a sport utility vehicle that was stranded on its tracks in Valhalla, N.Y., which is north of New York City. 

Six people aboard the train, including its operator, and the driver of the SUV were killed. 

The Department of Transportation has promised to conduct a “thorough investigation” of the accident, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has also begun investigating the circumstances of the crash. 

Metro-North has come under fire before for four high-profile accidents in 2013, including a collision of two trains in Connecticut, a freight rail accident in the same area of the track maintained by Metro-North two months later, another crash that killed four people and an unrelated employee fatality.