February 03, 2014

Rahall Urges Continued Funding of Railway-Highway Crossings Program at Safety Hearing

The Honorable Nick J. Rahall

Subcommittee on Highways and Transit

“Improving the Effectiveness of the Federal

Surface Transportation Safety Grant Programs”

January 28, 2013

Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this important hearing.  Ensuring the safety of the users of the transportation network is a core function of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.  Further preventing the tragic loss of life and injuries that occur every day on our roads will be a top priority for the Committee in the next surface transportation authorization bill. 

One area that has been a priority for me is addressing the unique challenges with railway-highway grade crossings.  Last year, there were nearly 2,000 incidents at grade crossings resulting in 233 deaths and 921 injuries.  While the number of crashes at grade crossings is down 82 percent since 1980, nearly all crashes at grade crossings are preventable. 

The primary means of Federal investment in grade crossing safety is the Section 130 Railway-Highway Crossings Program.  This program provides Federal funds to states to make grade crossing safety enhancements.  According to the Federal Rail Road Administration, the Section 130 program “has helped prevent over 10,500 fatalities and 51,000 nonfatal injuries.”

MAP-21 preserved the budgetary set-aside for this important safety program, which provides States $220 million annually to assist in making grade crossing safety improvements.  Without this dedicated funding, grade crossing needs would fare poorly in competition with other highway investment needs. 

I am pleased to report that in recent years, States have been obligating significantly more funds towards safety improvements at grade crossings.  Since the dedicated set-aside was created under the Highway Safety Improvement Program, States have obligated nearly 75 percent of their available funding.  This is up from only 26 percent in fiscal year 2006.  Continuing to provide dedicated funding towards this important safety program will mean more injuries averted and more lives saved at the Nation’s more than 212,000 grade crossings.

Once again Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this important hearing.  I look forward to working for you to reauthorize surface transportation programs, and to continue to improve the safety of the Nation’s highways