WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Safety, was today joined by Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) to introduce legislation to identify and address instances of blocked railroad crossings:

“There are more than 200,000 highway-railroad crossings across this country. When trains block these crossings, it can cause major inconveniences and even delay first responders. My legislation would ensure the collection of data on blocked crossings to help Congress develop policies that will make America’s roads safer and more convenient,” said Senator Fischer. 

“We’ve got to do a better job ensuring that our highway-railroad crossings aren’t blocking critical routes for emergency responders or causing significant delays or traffic. In order to do that, Congress  needs better data on these blocked crossings so that we can make our highways safer, more efficient, and get people where they need to go a lot faster, and this bipartisan bill will do just that,” said Senator Tester.

“Many Kansans have experienced the frustration of waiting at a blocked railroad crossing, and in some cases, this interruption can be much more damaging than a delayed arrival home. Whether you are a first responder answering a call or a rancher transporting livestock, blocked railroad crossings can become costly or even hazardous barriers for road traffic. This legislation allows the Federal Railroad Administration to continue collecting important data on blocked railroad crossings to make certain our roads are safe and efficient for travel,” said Senator Moran.

“With more than 4,600 rail crossings across Michigan, we must ensure we’re monitoring and addressing instances of blocked rail crossings. I’m glad to partner with Sen. Fischer to help ensure the public can play a more significant role in reducing and mitigating blocked crossings, which not only impede traffic for drivers but in some cases have prevented emergency responders from performing the vital work that they do,” said Senator Peters.

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In December 2019, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) posted its Blocked Crossing Incident Reporter portal through which the public and law enforcement could report blocked grade crossings to the agency. Senator Fischer’s bill would authorize the FRA’s blocked crossing portal as a three year pilot program, ensuring data collection continues.  The FRA would be required to analyze submissions to the portal based on key criteria and provide an analysis to Congress. By authorizing the blocked crossing portal and examining the results, Congress can better understand the scope and severity of blocked crossings and develop targeted, effective policy to address them.

The bill also requires the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to evaluate the requirements of the Section 130 railway-highway grade crossing program to identify any additional flexibilities in the program that could support states’ efforts to make grade crossings safer.  

Senator Fischer is also a bipartisan cosponsor of Senator Jon Tester’s (D-Mont.) Right Track Act. That bill would require the FRA and FHWA to make recommendations on improving rail grade crossing safety in rural America, increase public outreach on grade crossing safety, and target resources for grade crossing safety in rural areas.