Hon. Jennifer Homendy, Chair, National Transportation Safety Board | Witness Testimony
Ian Jefferies, President and CEO, Association of American Railroads | Witness Testimony
Hon. Michael Smith, Commissioner, Indiana Department of Transportation | Witness Testimony
Opening remarks, as prepared, of Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Troy Nehls (R-TX) :
Today’s hearing examines highway-railroad grade crossing eliminations and safety improvements.
There are approximately 212,000 highway-rail grade crossings in the United States. In 2022, there were over 2,000 accidents at grade crossings.
Grade crossing accidents and fatalities are entirely preventable. States make the determinations when it comes to addressing grade crossings, including weighing safety, railroad, and vehicle traffic considerations. Eliminating a rail crossing, where necessary and possible, eliminates the potential for a grade crossing incident.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) created a new grant program known as the Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program meant to help states and communities with grade crossing elimination and safety.
The program received a total of $3 billion over five years, or roughly $600 million per year. In Fiscal Year 2022, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) awarded $570 million in Railroad Crossing Elimination grants to projects in 32 states that addressed over 400 at-grade crossings. My home state of Texas received roughly $86 million for five major grade crossing projects.
It is expected that FRA will announce a notice of funding opportunity soon seeking applications for more grade crossing improvement projects.
We must ensure this process is transparent, easy to navigate, and that the money is accessible for all communities. It is my hope that the FRA will work with Congress to achieve these goals while properly overseeing this new grant program.
Further, with the next surface transportation reauthorization fast approaching, it is time to begin examining these programs to understand what’s working, the right levels of funding, and how to build on existing grade crossing elimination and safety efforts such as the Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program.
I look forward to hearing the testimony of our witnesses today, and specifically I am interested in learning about how existing programs can be improved, the resources that states and communities need, and how we can reduce government red tape to make these funds more accessible and the process less complicated.