CONGRESSMAN JIM HIMES

Representing the 4th District of Connecticut

Reps. Himes, Esty, Maloney, Brownley, Pascrell Introduce Rail Safety Bill

March 5, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representatives Jim Himes (CT-4), Elizabeth Esty (CT-5), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), Julia Brownley (CA-26), and Bill Pascrell (NJ-9) introduced the Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Act of 2015, H.R. 1291. Their bill will help states and communities make safety upgrades at highway-rail grade crossings. Each year, nearly 270 people are killed at grade crossings, including the recent tragedies in Valhalla, NY, and Oxnard, CA.

“Last month's fatal accident on Metro-North and other similar tragedies nationwide demonstrate the urgent need to improve safety at rail crossings in our communities. 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," said Rep. Jim Himes (CT-4).

“Recent accidents at highway-rail grade crossings, including the fatal accident in Valhalla that killed a Danbury resident, are unacceptable and completely avoidable. Investing in rail safety programs and supporting innovative grade crossing safety 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,” said Rep. Elizabeth Esty (CT-5).

“These accidents are a wake-up call,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18). “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.”

“Given the tremendous backlog of projects nationwide – including crossing safety improvements at Rice Avenue in Oxnard – Congress must increase funding for highway-rail crossing safety programs. I look forward to working with my colleagues to advance this important safety legislation,” said Rep. Julia Brownley (CA-26).

“This legislation takes an important step toward improving safety at deadly rail crossings like Midland Avenue in Elmwood Park, NJ, which is listed as one of the most dangerous in the nation,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (NJ-9). “By raising public awareness and implementing modern technology, this bill can bring rail safety into the 21st century.  It’s imperative that we continue to work to find a permanent solution to this grave public safety issue.”

The Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Act of 2015 provides states and communities with more resources to prevent collisions at grade crossings and strengthens existing programs, including the Railway-Highway Crossing Program, the Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Grants Safety Program, and the Rail Line Relocation and Improvement Capital Grant Program, which have been underfunded and underutilized. By building bridges and tunnels to separate roadways from rail track, by installing improved lights and signals at crossings, and by increasing public awareness of grade crossing dangers, states and communities can take significant steps toward making highway-rail grade crossings safer.

The bill, H.R. 1291, has been referred to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) have introduced a similar measure, S.532, in the U.S. Senate.