Railroad Safety Grant Money Remains UnspentOctober 30, 2019
In 2013, a CSX freight train exploded after it hit a garbage truck and derailed off the tracks in Roseland, Maryland. In response to the devastating accident, the federal government awarded a $700,000 grant to the state of Maryland for the purpose of improving safety at railroad crossings in the area, including the location where the accident occurred. However, the grant money has not been spent on the recommended safety improvements, despite the occurrence of another train accident at the same location.
Reasons for the Delay
According to the Maryland Transportation Secretary, one reason for the delay is that the state is in the process of negotiating who is responsible for paying for specific projects. In addition, the requirements for procuring federal money can be extremely time-consuming. It has been six years since the derailment caused a massive chemical explosion, and three years since the grant money was awarded. Prior to receiving the grant money, CSX had pledged $112,000, then increased its commitment to $546,000 to pay for improvements to the private crossing, as well as three other crossings in the vicinity. The state of Maryland, as well as Baltimore County, each agreed to pay $77,000 to cover the remaining costs.
Safety Upgrades to Protect Motorists and Pedestrians Still Lacking
Private railroad crossings are not required by law to have flashing lights, bells, and gates that prevent vehicles from crossing the tracks when a train is approaching. After the 2013 accident in Roseland, CSX followed recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to clear away overgrown vegetation at the railroad crossing and add new signage to the intersections. The NTSB also recommended installing half-roadway gates, bells, and lights at the site of the accident, as well as at three other crossings. The plan was for CSX to complete the work and be reimbursed with the grant money. According to a spokesperson for CSX, they have been working with the state to secure federal funds so that they can install crossing upgrades.
The state department is currently reviewing an updated report from CSX, and drafting their own environmental impact report. A spokesperson from the Maryland Department of Transportation said that funding will not be available until the Federal Railroad Administration signs off on both the updated CSX report and the state’s environmental impact statement. In the interim, until the improvements are complete, CSX strongly urges all motorists and pedestrians to use extreme caution when approaching railroad crossings and obey the posted signage and warning devices.
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