Bill requires statewide inspection of at-grade rail crossings

train 2Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, D-Greenburgh, is calling for the passage of his bill (A.5235-B/S.03458-B) that would require the New York State Department of Transportation to conduct a statewide study of level grade rail crossings.

Abinanti introduced the bill after the February 2015 Valhalla Metro-North crash that left six people dead and 15 injured; the deadliest crash in the railroad’s history. The crash occurred when an SUV driver was caught inside a crossing gate after it descended. The train collided with the SUV, causing a massive impact which destroyed the SUV and the first train car.

On Tuesday, February 16, Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Sarah Feinberg sent a letter to states urging them to inspect their rail crossings to make sure everything is working properly. Abinanti said New York needs to take action on the situation as soon as possible.

Although the number of fatalities and accidents at highway-railroad grade crossings have fallen steadily on a national level, they have increased in New York state, according to the bill.

“The FRA administrator has made improving railroad crossing safety a top priority – now it’s time for the State Legislature to do the same,” Abinanti said. “We have to be proactive in determining where there are safety issues that need immediate attention.”

The bill passed in the Assembly last year and is ready for a floor vote. Senator David Carlucci, D-Clarkstown, sponsors the bill in the Senate.

“Drivers shouldn’t be playing a game of chance whenever they approach a railroad crossing,” Carlucci said. “A comprehensive evaluation of these often-dangerous crossings will go a long way in protecting the health and safety of New Yorkers.”

The bill would require a study on the safety and potential for improvement of level grade rail crossings to be submitted to the governor and the legislature by April 1, 2017.