NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The government should spend more money safeguarding railroad crossings that are “accidents waiting to happen,” two U.S. senators said Sunday.

Sens. Charles Schumer and Richard Blumenthal spoke at Grand Central Terminal, the departing point for the Metro-North Railroad train that crashed into a car earlier this month in Valhalla. The car’s driver died, as did five train passengers.

Although the cause of the collision has not been determined, the lawmakers noted that more than 200 people died in grade-crossing accidents in 2013.

“It’s crystal clear that the existence of the rail crossing played at least some role in that tragic, fatal accident,” said Schumer, D-N.Y.

Schumer and Blumenthal, D-Conn., plan to introduce a bill later this month to fund engineering and safety upgrades at thousands of rail crossings across the country.

“Our new legislation focuses on the three E’s to address collisions: engineering, education and enforcement,” Schumer said.

The bill would also double the amount of money provided to several initiatives of the Federal Railroad Administration to $200 million, CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported.

Blumenthal said that on average, there’s an accident every three hours at rail intersections that still rely on outdated signal and warning systems.

Schumer said more must be done.

“Many of New York’s hundreds of rail-grade crossings are truly accidents waiting to happen, and it’s critical that the federal government do more to make engineering upgrades at accident-prone crossings,” he said.

In the Tri-State Area alone there are 700 so-called grade crossings where vehicles drive directly over railroad tracks.

Metro-North has 126, the Long Island Rail Road has 294 and NJ TRANSIT has 330.

According to a study by the New York Times, crossings in Elmwood Park and Ramsey in New Jersey, and in Brentwood and Central Islip, Long Island are among the most likely in the country to see train-vehicle collisions.

Completely redoing crossings to elevate tracks over vehicle traffic would be incredibly expensive, Aiello reported. The LIRR redid the Mineola crossing after a fatal accident in the 1980s. That one project alone cost $85 million.

As for the Metro-North crash, a preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board is expected to be released next week.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


Leave a Reply