Feds seek to boost safety of oil train track crossings

Feds seek to boost safety of oil train track crossings

The Obama administration is offering states $10 million in grants to boost the safety of railway track crossings that carry potentially dangerous oil trains. 

The announcement, from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), comes in response to a series of high-profile accidents that have raised questions about the safety of shipping large amounts of crude oil by train. 

The FRA said Tuesday that it is "soliciting applications for $10 million in competitive grant funding available to states to improve highway-rail grade crossings and track along routes that transport energy products like crude oil and ethanol." 

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Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxBig Dem names show little interest in Senate Lyft sues New York over new driver minimum pay law Lyft confidentially files for IPO MORE said the funding is a sign of the Obama administration's commitment to boosting the safety of U.S. oil shipments by rail, which have been come increasingly popular in recent years despite the string of deadly accidents.  

“The U.S. Department of Transportation has made increasing safety at highway-rail grade crossings, especially along routes transporting energy products, one of its top priorities,” Foxx said in a statement.  “This money allows the department to support innovative ideas and solutions developed at the local level, and I encourage states to apply for this funding.”

The transportation of crude oil by freight rail is a contentious issue. Lawmakers have sought widespread reforms since 2013 accidents in Casselton, N.D., and Quebec, Canada, spilled thousands of gallons of oil and caused explosions. 

The transportation department previously ordered speed limits on oil trains that run near major cities with large populations. Federal regulators have also ordered freight rail companies to remove faulty parts it says have been involved in many of the recent oil train leaks. 

FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg said she is focused on reducing accidents at all railway crossings, especially ones that involve oil trains.  

“Most of these deaths are completely preventable, and that is why the Federal Railroad Administration has redoubled its efforts to reverse last year’s upward trend," Feinberg said in a statement. "These funds will allow states to take innovative ideas and make them a reality to increase safety and decrease fatalities.”

The railroad administration said the money for the highway crossing improvement grants will come from its Safe Transportation of Energy Products (STEP) by Rail program.