Transportation Rail Federal agencies

FRA to states: Sync traffic lights, railroad crossings

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City railroad crossing

Photo: JTGrafix/iStockphoto

Washington – State transportation departments must do more to ensure railroad crossing warning systems are properly interconnected with nearby traffic signals, the Federal Railroad Administration recently announced.

FRA issued a formal request on Feb. 17 asking state and local transportation officials to confirm that warning systems and traffic lights are connected properly. Joint inspections that include traffic experts and railroad officials could help confirm the systems are sequenced correctly and that enough time exists for traffic to clear from nearby intersections before a train passes, FRA says.

Almost 5,000 railroad crossings across the nation are connected with traffic lights, according to the agency.

FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg wrote a letter imploring state transportation leaders to take action and make sure traffic lights and crossing signals are synced properly. Feinberg cited recent preventable tragedies such as a Metro-North commuter train crash that killed six people in 2015 in Valhalla, NY.

“I have made improving railroad crossing safety a top priority of mine because I know that we can and must do better,” Feinberg said in the letter. “But the Federal Railroad Administration cannot solve this problem on its own. Unless we work closely with state and local officials, law enforcement, railroads and transportation officials, and other stakeholders, we will not have the impact we are striving for and we will not save as many lives. But working together, I know we can do more to prevent these incidents.”

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