Cantwell, Blunt Introduce Bill to Address Dangerous and Costly At-Grade Crossing Delays

Bipartisan Legislation Takes Aim at Crossings That Create Safety Hazards, Slow Freight Movement, and Snarl Traffic in Communities Across the Country

April 29, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) today introduced legislation that will provide $500 million a year for five years to improve safety and reduce congestion at railroad crossings in communities around the country.

“Communities throughout Washington state know the safety and congestion challenges posed by at-grade crossings,” Chair Cantwell said. “Too many people are injured or killed at at-grade crossings, and the safest crossing is one that does not exist. Crossings can also delay the movement of people and goods all across the United States, hurting our competitiveness. With the volume of freight shipments projected to increase 17% by the year 2030, it is critical we act now to address this urgent infrastructure need. The legislation Senator Blunt and I are introducing today would authorize grants for state, local, and Tribal governments to eliminate at-grade crossing conflicts to improve safety and help the U.S. economy by decreasing freight congestion.”

“As a state with the 10th largest number of railroad miles in the nation, Missourians are no stranger to the safety issues and inconveniences caused by rail crossings,” Senator Blunt said. “Getting rid of rail crossings will reduce traffic jams, improve the quality of life, and – most importantly - increase safety in communities across the state. In addition, removing crossings will increase the reliability of our rail network and strengthen Missouri’s role as a national transportation hub.”

Train passage through at-grade crossings can occupy crossings for hours at a time, separating neighborhoods and towns in two. Additionally, incidents at railroad crossings account for about 30 percent of all rail-related fatalities.

Grade separation projects eliminate the intersection, improving safety and mobility for the whole community. This bill authorizes $500 million annually for five years to help states, cities, and Tribes plan and construct grade crossing separation projects, as well as other track relocation projects to improve safety or reduce congestion.

Voices in Support:

Peter King, CEO, Association of Washington Cities: “Unsafe rail crossings plague many cities in Washington. Fixing these crossings is very expensive, often millions of dollars more than a local community can afford. We are grateful to Senator Cantwell for her leadership in tackling this crucial transportation issue with funding that improves safety as well as freight mobility.”

AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies: “Railroads strongly support this common-sense solution to increase safety, reduce emissions and enhance transportation. AAR looks forward to working with Sen. Cantwell and Sen. Blunt to advance this much-needed program, which will dramatically benefit the communities in which our members serve and improve the mobility of people and goods.”

Clarence Anthony, Executive Director and CEO of the National League of Cities: “When an ambulance is on one side of the railroad tracks and the hospital is on the other, the safety challenge of blocked crossings is clear. The Railroad Crossing Elimination Act will allow cities to finish more rail-road separation projects that keep traffic moving over and under the rail tracks while keeping our communities safe. The National League of Cities and America’s local leaders thank Chair Cantwell and Senator Blunt for leading on this critical legislation to address rail blockages clogging up the heart of too many cities and towns across the county.”

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials: “Reducing the number of highway and railway at-grade crossings blocked by trains is crucial for highway and pedestrian safety, as well as better connecting communities separated by railroad tracks. AASHTO thanks Senator Cantwell and Senator Blunt for their targeted effort to support critical grade separation projects.”

Chuck Baker, President, American Short Line & Regional Railroad Association: “We welcome Senator Cantwell and Senator Blunt’s introduction of the Railroad Crossing Elimination Act. While short line railroads strive to work closely with our communities and customers to avoid causing any unwelcome impacts, there are many opportunities throughout the country to eliminate highway-rail grade crossings to improve the mobility of people and goods and improve the health and safety of communities. If passed, this legislation will help provide funds to our government and tribal partners to allow them to work with us to close, relocate, or improve many challenging crossings, and we look forward to doing so whenever and wherever possible.”

Click HERE to read the full bill.