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Release federal funds for MTA, LIRR rail safety, Schumer says

Four people in a car on a Central

Four people in a car on a Central Islip grade crossing got out of the vehicle before it was struck by an oncoming train on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016, causing a suspension of service between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, officials said.

Credit: Stringer News Service

Sen. Chuck Schumer is urging federal transportation officials to expedite the release of more than $5 million in promised grant funding to the MTA that it needs to improve safety at several railroad grade crossings, including on the Long Island Rail Road.

In a letter to Federal Railroad Administration Acting Administrator Patrick Warren, Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged the agency to “swiftly obligate” $5.2 million in Railroad Safety Infrastructure Improvement Grant funding that was awarded to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in September. Schumer said the New York State Department of Transportation still has not received any of the money and “negotiations are ongoing on specific grant agreements.”

“These funds are urgently needed to upgrade dangerous grade crossings and reduce the number of accidents, and therefore I’d urge you to expedite the approval of the grant agreements and award the funds as quickly as possible,” Schumer wrote.

FRA spokeswoman Desiree French said Thursday that the federal agency and the state DOT “are working closely together to finalize the required documentation for the three grant agreements. We expect the funds to be obligated by the end of April.”

MTA officials have said the funding would pay for cameras at 43 LIRR and Metro-North crossings to investigate accidents and analyze operations; new traffic control devices at crossings in Deer Park and Oceanside; and more and better signs and pavement markings at many other crossings.

The MTA stepped up safety protocols at its crossings — including nearly 300 along the LIRR’s tracks — after a Feb. 3, 2015, accident at a Valhalla crossing in Westchester that killed a motorist and five train passengers.


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