Larsen Announces Bill To Improve Safety, Traffic Flow At Rail Crossings

MARYSVILLE, Wash.—Intersections of railroads and roadways would get new funding for safety and efficiency upgrades if Congress passes a new bill introduced by Rep. Rick Larsen, WA-02. The At-Grade Crossing Enhancement (ACE) Act of 2015 creates $300 million in annual grants to upgrade at-grade crossings, where rail incidents are most likely to occur and where rail lines have the highest impact on car traffic.

Larsen will discuss the bill during a tour of at-grade crossings in Marysville today with Mayor Jon Nehring. Larsen has long pushed to improve the safety of communities near rail lines in light of the growing amount of crude oil traveling by rail. He introduced the bill after receiving input from local officials about the high need and low funding available to improve at-grade crossings.

“Local officials have told me that improving at-grade crossings is critical for safety and traffic flow. Rail incidents are most likely to happen at these crossings, and they can lead to traffic congestion that delays people on their way to work, goods on their way to market, and public safety vehicles on their way to save lives. As our rail lines carry more goods, including crude oil, I am working to improve community safety. I introduced the ACE Act to create real solutions to the impacts of rail traffic increases,” Larsen said.

The ACE Act creates $300 million in annual grants to upgrade at-grade crossings, improve safety, spark freight mobility, and provide training and technical assistance. The program will be administered by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which has experience in freight mobility projects and rail safety needs. State, local and tribal governments, along with Metropolitan Planning Organizations, will be eligible to apply for grants to improve rail crossings, relocate rail lines, and provide training and technical assistance for future improvements.

The ACE Act complements action the FRA announced today to use Google Maps to provide better information to drivers about rail crossings. The partnership will incorporate FRA data about at-grade crossing locations nationwide into Google Maps, as well as providing drivers using Google navigation with alerts when they near crossings.

Larsen applauded the new partnership.

“At-grade crossing accidents are on the rise. Better safety information and improved infrastructure can help save lives,” Larsen said.

The ACE Act will help provide local governments with the funds they need to pay for at-grade crossing improvements, said Paul Roberts, an Everett Councilmember and President of the Association of Washington Cities.

“When I met with Congressman Larsen recently, I told him that Washington’s cities can’t handle the traffic and safety impacts of increased rail traffic on their own. With a single at-grade crossing project costing up to $30 million, we need to work cooperatively with the federal government to make needed infrastructure improvements. I applaud Congressman Larsen for introducing this important legislation to move forward on projects that are going to increase our safety while improving our economic competitiveness,” Roberts said.

Larsen recently released a report about the importance of federal transportation investments for Northwest Washington’s jobs and economy.

A fact sheet about the bill is available here.

Full bill text is available here.