Representative Nita Lowey

Representing the 17th District of New York

Lowey, Maloney, and FRA Administrator Mark Anniversary of Tragic Metro-North Crash in Valhalla and Highlight Actions to Improve Grade Crossing Safety

February 1, 2016
Press Release

Lowey and Maloney Measures Supporting Crossing Safety: Additional Resources to States, a National High-Visibility Paid Media Campaign

Anniversary of Metro-North Valhalla Accident is Wednesday, February 3, 2016

WHITE PLAINS, NY – Congresswoman Nita Lowey (Westchester/Rockland), the Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee, Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, Member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Administrator Sarah Feinberg today highlighted actions at the federal level to improve grade crossing safety issues affecting the Hudson Valley as well as communities nationwide. The anniversary of the Metro-North crash in Valhalla is Wednesday, February 3, 2016.

“One year ago, the Metro-North crash in Valhalla shocked our entire region,” said Lowey. “Most troubling is that the people involved could have been anyone’s family member or loved one, commuting back from work and looking forward to getting home. That’s why I have been working extremely hard at the federal level to enable upgrades and improvements that make rail crossings safer. As Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee, I was successful in passing  additional resources for states to improve safety and for the federal government to conduct a public awareness campaign to help avoid another unspeakable rail crossing tragedy.  Officials at all levels of government will continue working together to ensure our communities are safe and secure.”

“Accidents like last year’s horrific Metro-North accident are all too common in New York – that’s why I immediately introduced legislation to invest in positive train control and improve safety at grade crossings. Installing positive train control systems on commuter rail systems like Metro-North is the single most important step we can take to reduce human error and save lives,” said Maloney. “Working together with folks like Congresswoman Lowey, Administrator Feinberg, state, and local officials, we were able to pass critical provisions in the Highway bill that will not only prevent accidents, but will improve safety for the millions of New Yorkers traveling by rail every day.”

Lowey’s measures in the Fiscal Year 2016 omnibus spending bill included:

  • Lowey’s amendment to increase to $350 million the set-aside for grade crossing improvements in the Highway Safety Improvement Program, giving state highway departments additional resources to make upgrades and safety improvements at dangerous crossings.
  • Lowey’s provision to set aside $6.5 million for the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop a high-visibility enforcement paid-media campaign that supports highway-rail grade crossing safety. Lowey had called on the federal government shortly following the crash to bolster education and enforcement campaigns.
  • New railroad safety grants funded at $50 million: $25 million of which available for Positive Train Control (PTC) and $25 million for rail infrastructure.

Immediately following the Metro-North accident, Maloney introduced the Rail Crossings Safety Improvement Act, which would invest in state and local governments' efforts to build bridges, tunnels, or otherwise relocate roads in order to improve the safety of grade crossings for passengers, motorists, and pedestrians. Lowey is a co-sponsor of this measure. This legislation was passed by the House of Representatives on March 4, 2015, as part of the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act (PRRIA).

In addition, Maloney wrote several key measures to improve rail safety, which were included in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, also known as the Highway Transportation bill and signed into law. The Passenger Train Derailment Prevention Act, which would require passenger railroads and freight lines on which passenger rail travels to identify curves with a speed reduction of 20 mph or greater, and take actions to enhance safety, including: modifying existing ATC or other signal systems, increasing crew size, installing signage, installing alert systems in cabs, and increasing crew communication. This legislation also gives railroads an incentive to implement positive train control (PTC).

“Railroad crossing safety is a top priority of mine and Representatives Lowey and Maloney because we know that, working together, we can save lives,” said Administrator Sarah Feinberg, Federal Railroad Administration. “To get to a point where we have zero railroad crossing deaths means everyone has to do their part – the FRA, the railroads, states, law enforcement, and even motorists who drive over the more than 200,000 railroad crossing across the country every day.” 

After asking Feinberg about effective approaches to increasing safety at crossings during a House Appropriations Committee hearing on March 25, 2015, Lowey then hosted Feinberg and local officials for a visit to the Metro-North crossing at Roaring Brook Road in Chappaqua, which has faced great safety challenges, to demonstrate the danger posed by grade crossings.

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