U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is awarding a total $570 million for projects to eliminate highway-railroad crossings in 32 states including nearly $40.5 million to the City of Washougal, Washington to eliminate one of the busiest BNSF railroad grade crossings in the state. Sen. Cantwell authored the Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program and shepherded its passage through Congress as part of the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“This grade crossing is one of the busiest along the BNSF railroad line in the entire State of Washington, and it creates a real hardship for the Washougal community. When a train blocks the crossing, emergency vehicles can't get through and traffic backs up onto State Route 14. Building a new railroad bridge and underpass structure between Main Street and F Place will connect the two halves of Washougal while helping the entire transportation corridor – both road and rail – operate more efficiently,” Sen. Cantwell said.
In April 2021, Sen. Cantwell introduced legislation to establish the Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program to help states, cities and Tribes plan and construct grade crossing separation and improvement projects. In June 2021, Sen. Cantwell led the legislation through the Commerce Committee as part of the Surface Transportation Investment Act of 2021. This legislation was included in the November 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which provided $3 billion over 5 years for this program.
Sen. Cantwell has been a leading and vocal advocate for at-grade rail crossing reform and safety. In March of 2021, she released a report studying and assessing safety and efficiency concerns at at-grade railroad crossings, finding federal programs were not sufficient to address these pressing issues of safety and congestion.