Representative Nita Lowey

Representing the 17th District of New York

Lowey Hosts Federal Railroad Administrator in Chappaqua to Highlight the Need for Action on Grade Crossing Safety

March 31, 2015
Press Release

For the second time in one month, a vehicle broke through the Roaring Brook Road crossing gate to avoid a train collision

The FRA charged with enabling safe, reliable, and efficient railways

As top Democrat on federal spending committee, Lowey will fight to protect and increase funding for rail crossing safety initiatives

CHAPPAQUA, NY – Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (Westchester/Rockland), the Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee, today hosted Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg and local officials during a visit to the Metro-North crossing at Roaring Brook Road in Chappaqua to demonstrate the danger posed by grade crossings. The Roaring Brook Road crossing was the scene of yet another near-accident yesterday as a van on the tracks broke through the gate to avoid a collision as a train approached – at least the second close call this month.

“I’m pleased FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg is here to see firsthand how dangerous these crossings are,” said Congresswoman Lowey. “With more than 250,000 public and private grade crossings around the country, we must tackle this important safety challenge with a multi-faceted approach. As Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, I will be fighting to protect and increase funding for rail crossing safety initiatives.”

“There are more than 250,000 highway-rail grade crossings across the United States. Safety is a serious issue at everyone one of them. Just yesterday there was an incident here at the crossing in Chappaqua. It is a reminder that we must remain vigilant. Highway grade crossing incidents are a leading cause of rail-related deaths and injuries,” said Sarah Feinberg, Acting Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration. “After calling for their help, local law enforcement agencies have beefed up their presence at crossings and are rigorously enforcing traffic laws. We are grateful for their response. We are doing and will continue to do everything we possibly can to keep drivers, pedestrians, and train crews and passengers safe at grade crossings.”

The FRA is the federal agency charged with enabling safe, reliable, and efficient movement of people on our nation’s railways, and is working on a multi-faceted approach to promote grade crossing safety, including efforts with law enforcement agencies. As the top Democrat on the House committee responsible for funding federal government programs, Lowey will fight to protect funding and work to increase investments that improve grade crossing safety and prevent tragic accidents. 

In addition, Lowey believes we must work to eliminate the most dangerous grade crossings and has engaged Feinberg in discussions about a proposal for a high-profile public awareness campaign. This effort would build upon the FRA’s enhanced enforcement efforts and be similar to the successful “Click it or Ticket” campaign for seatbelts and the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign for impaired driving. Lowey wants to make sure drivers know what to do and, more importantly, what not to do when they approach a rail crossing. Public awareness campaigns are particularly effective when combined with law enforcement.

Lowey will continue to work with federal, state, and local officials to ensure grade crossing safety. Joining Lowey and Feinberg today were President of the Metro-North Railroad Joseph Giulietti, Chief Safety Office of Metro-North Railroad Anne Kirsch, Metro Transit Authority (MTA) Chief of Police Michael Coan, State DOT Planning and Program Manager Tom Weiner, Westchester Board of Legislators Chair Mike Kaplowitz, New Castle Police Chief Charles Ferry, Town of New Castle Comptroller Robert Deary, New Castle Department of Public Works Deputy Commissioner Gerry Moerschell, Mount Pleasant Town Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi, and Mount Pleasant Police Chief Paul Oliva.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has helped coordinate cooperation among all levels of government, said, “With so many grade crossings in the Westchester area and throughout New York State, we must make every effort to ensure the safety of local drivers, commuters, and the community. I'll continue to push for the resources necessary to prevent accidents, raise public awareness and improve safety around crossings in our area.”

“With increasing concerns and awareness regarding the safety of our region’s railroad crossings, it is crucial that leaders of the community on every level of government, as well as the public, come together and work to prevent future tragedies on the tracks,” said New York Assemblyman David Buchwald (Westchester). 

Since the fatal Metro-North crash in Valhalla on February 3, 2015, Lowey has led a moment of silence on the House floor to honor the victims, and has been working with federal officials to find solutions to what has become a recurring issue in New York’s 17th Congressional District and nationwide. Lowey has:

  • Asked Feinberg about effective approaches to increasing safety during a House Appropriations Committee hearing on March 25, 2015;
  • Co-sponsored HR 705, which passed the House on March 4, 2015 as part of the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act (PRRIA), to improve grade crossing safety; and
  • Spoken with NTSB Board Member Robert Sumwalt on February 4, 2015, about exploring investments in new technologies to detect objects on tracks.