Biden administration indicates $570 million in grants

Harris Marley

Global Courant

With the rail industry relying on ever-longer trains to cut costs, the Biden administration is handing out $570 million in grants to help eliminate many railroad crossings in 32 states.

The grants announced Monday will help build bridges or underpasses at the locations of more than three dozen intersections that slow traffic and sometimes keep first responders away from where help is desperately needed.

In some places, trains routinely exceeding 2 miles can block crosswalks for hours, cutting off access to parts of towns and forcing pedestrians to climb through trains that may move without warning.

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“We see countless stories of people not being able to get to work on time, goods being blocked from getting to where they need to be and first responders being delayed by these trains that can be delayed or stopped – we even see footage of children between or under freight trains to get to school,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.


In one case Buttigieg mentioned, a Texas mother called 911 because her 3-month-old baby was in distress, but a stopped train prevented the ambulance from getting there quickly and the baby died in the hospital two days later.

In addition to problems with blocked crossings, approximately 2,000 collisions are reported at level crossings each year. Last year, nearly 250 people were killed in those car-train accidents. In one case Buttigieg cited, a woman in California stopped on tracks after traffic backed up and was killed when a train crashed into her vehicle.

Cars wait for a train to pass in Valley, Nebraska, on January 17, 2007. The Biden administration is handing out $570 million in grants to help eliminate railroad crossings across the country. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, File)

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In recent years, the major freight railroads have revised their operations to rely on fewer, longer trains so they can use fewer crews and locomotives as part of their cost-cutting efforts.

The railroads insist these changes haven’t made their trains any more risky, but regulators and Congress are closely scrutinizing their operations after a number of recent high-profile derailments. And the problems at level crossings are well documented.


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These grants are part of a $3 billion funding approved in the $1 trillion infrastructure bill for these railroad crossing projects to be distributed over the next five years.

Some of the 63 projects that will receive grants will only be planning and design work to eliminate intersections in the future, but most of the money will go to physical improvements at intersections and solving long-standing problems.

Buttigieg said he plans to visit Grand Forks, North Dakota, on Monday to draw attention to a $30 million grant that will help pay for a project near the University of North Carolina campus. Dakota that will improve access to the local hospital.

A grant worth nearly $37 million will help eliminate four railroad crossings in Houston, which has the second-highest number of railroad crossing deaths in the country. The four newly constructed underpasses will reduce traffic delays and improve pedestrian safety.

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A $7.2 million grant will help improve access to an area of ​​Fostoria, Ohio known as the Iron Triangle because it is bordered on three sides by train tracks. A CSX train passes through the community about once every 26 minutes, with warning sirens at the intersections sounding for at least two hours a day. A new bridge will be built over the railway on one side of the neighborhood to provide safe passage to the area.

In each of these grants, states and cities—sometimes with the help of the railroads—must cover at least 20% of the project costs.

Biden administration indicates $570 million in grants

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