Railroad Safety:

Status of Efforts to Improve Railroad Crossing Safety

RCED-95-191: Published: Aug 3, 1995. Publicly Released: Aug 10, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined federal efforts to improve railroad crossing safety, focusing on: (1) the progress made in reducing railroad crossing accidents and fatalities; (2) federal and state strategies that have the potential for reducing railroad crossing accidents and fatalities; and (3) the Department of Transportation's (DOT) progress in implementing its action plan for improving railroad crossing safety.

GAO found that: (1) the annual number of accidents and fatalities at public railroad crossings has declined by 61 and 34 percent, respectively, since the Rail-Highway Crossing Program began in 1974; (2) progress in increasing railroad crossing safety has been limited, since states improved the most dangerous crossings during the first 10 years of the program; (3) DOT is developing new ways to distribute funds to those states with the most dangerous crossings and encourage improvements along specific rail corridors; (4) the states are working to close more crossings and strengthen public education and law enforcement efforts to change motorists' dangerous behavior; (5) DOT has set a national goal of reducing railroad crossing accidents and fatalities by 50 percent from 1994 to 2004; and (6) the success of the DOT action plan depends on states' and railroads' cooperation in implementing 55 separate proposals, adequate financing, and the development of an evaluation component to assess the effect of the actions taken.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOT provided further explanation of the Railroad Crossing Action Plan in information for the record following its March 26, 1996 House Appropriations hearing. The information provided to the Subcommittee on Transportation included cost estimates and funding sources for each of the 55 action items.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation, in cooperation with the states, should develop cost estimates and identify funding sources and action plan proposals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOT concurred with the recommendation and indicated that the Federal Railroad Administration had developed cost estimates and identified funding sources for the action plan. The intermodal implementation committee will update the figures and include them in subsequent action plan status reports.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation, in cooperation with the states, should evaluate the cost and effectiveness of the action plan as it is implemented.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

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