The federal government will spend more than $5 million to make MTA railroad grade crossings safer, including by installing new cameras at several Long Island Rail Road intersections, Sen. Chuck Schumer announced Thursday.
The $5,162,417 award from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Safety Infrastructure Improvement Grant program will fund improvements at 43 grade crossings throughout the LIRR and Metro-North systems, according to Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“When it comes to improving rail safety we must take an all-of-the-above approach that includes prioritizing a culture of safety, improving education, and making smart upgrades to dangerous grade crossings,” Schumer said. “Today’s investment by the FRA in some of New York’s most dangerous crossings will help this cause tremendously.”
The federal grants come as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has undertaken several measures to improve safety at its crossings, after a Metro-North train at a Valhalla crossing struck a sport utility vehicle in February 2015, killing its driver and five train passengers.
Nationally, there were 2,059 grade-crossing collisions last year, killing 244 people and injuring 967, according to Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit organization committed to crossing safety. On the LIRR alone, there were five grade-crossing accidents last year, injuring three people, and another eight suicides at grade crossings, according to the FRA. There are more than 5,000 grade crossings in New York, including nearly 300 throughout the LIRR alone.
The federally funded improvements will include: $1.9 million to install closed-circuit television cameras at 43 grade crossings through the LIRR and Metro-North systems to help the railroads better analyze operations and investigate incidents at grade crossings; $1.9 million for various safety improvements, including signage, pavement markings and other traffic control devices at LIRR crossings in Deer Park and Oceanside and a North White Plains Metro-North crossing; and $1.3 million for new highway traffic signals at seven Metro-North crossings.
Schumer and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) last year proposed the Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Safety Act of 2015, which would provide new funding for engineering and safety upgrades at accident-prone crossings, to strengthen public education and awareness efforts and to bolster police enforcement at crossings. The legislation is still pending.
The MTA declined to comment, having not received any official notice of the grant award yet.
Bonnie Murphy, chief executive officer of Operation Lifesaver, applauded Schumer’s efforts to increase crossing safety, “specifically his focus on rail safety education throughout New York state.”
“We will be working with the Senator’s team, as well as with our partners at MTA, on rail safety initiatives to help all New York residents know how to keep themselves safe near tracks and trains.”
LIRR crossings slated for improvement:
Atlantic Avenue (Oceanside)
Executive Drive (Deer Park)
Commack Road (Deer Park)
Islip Avenue (Central Islip)
Straight Path (Wyandanch)
Stewart Avenue (Bethpage)
West Broadway (Hewlett)
Station Road (Bellport)
William Floyd Parkway (Shirley)
Glen Street (Glen Cove)
Jackson Avenue (Syosset)
Park Avenue (Huntington Station)
Source: U.S. government