Implementation Report of the USDOT Grade Crossing Safety Task Force
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Implementation Report of the USDOT Grade Crossing Safety Task Force

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      On March 1, 1996, the U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT) Grade Crossing Safety Task Force delivered a report entitled Accidents That Shouldn't Happen to Transportation Secretary Federico Pena. Secretary Pena had directed that the Task Force be convened to address factors that might have contributed to a fatal collision involving a commuter train and a school bus in Fox River Grove, Illinois, in October 1995. In its report, the Task Force addressed safety problems that were not specifically covered in the Department's 1994 Rail-Highway Crossing Safety Action Plan: Interconnected Signals; Vehicle Storage Space; High-Profile Crossings; Light-Rail Transit Crossings; and Special Vehicle Operations. The report made 24 recommendations to remedy physical and procedural deficiencies in grade crossing construction, operation, maintenance, funding, enforcement, coordination, information, standards, and education. The principal finding of the Task Force report was that "improved highway-rail grade crossing safety depends upon better cooperation, communication, and education among responsible parties if accidents and fatalities are to be reduced significantly." With this in mind, the report proposed a status update: "The Task Force will reconvene one year after issuance of this report to evaluate progress in implementation of its recommendations." The Task Force fulfilled this recommendation on March 1, 1997, by delivering an interim report on the Department's progress to the Associate Deputy Secretary and Director of the Office of Intermodalism, Michael P. Huerta. The contents of this interim report have been incorporated as the first chapter of this document to give the reader a comprehensive overview of Departmental actions in implementing Task Force recommendations. The Task Force report proposed that "The FHWA will meet with the FRA to develop the process for implementing the FHWA long-term recommendation to convene a technical working group to evaluate current standards and guidelines for a variety of grade crossing technical issues. Selection of working group members and development of an implementation schedule should be accomplished by June 1, 1996, with the group's product targeted for completion by June 1, 1997 ." Among the noteworthy accomplishments of the USDOT Task Force are the convening of a Technical Working Group (TWG) that has made 35 recommendations for standards, guidelines and other grade crossing safety issues; the identification of focal points to coordinate railroad safety issues in each State; the initiation of regional State/railroad conferences; and the creation of an advance warning sign for motorists approaching high-profile crossings. All of the Task Force activities and accomplishments including the above are detailed in Chapter 1. Chapter 2 focuses on the accomplishments of the TWG. Among the noteworthy accomplishments of the TWG are development of uniform terms for railroad and traffic engineers; development of an interconnected warning placard for controller cabinets; and recommendations in the areas of interconnected signals, vehicle storage, joint inspections, and high-profile crossings. This report to Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater summarizes the technical working group's findings on improved standards and guidelines for railroad-highway grade crossing safety. In making this report, the Task Force reaffirms the Secretary's commitment to make transportation safety the Department's highest priority. The Department intends to distribute this report to all who participated in the TWG. By distributing this report, the Department urges those agencies, organizations, and other professional societies that participated in its compilation to take steps to formally endorse this report and implement its recommendations. The Department further recommends that the report's terminology for railroad-highway grade crossings be adopted and used as soon as possible in correspondence, training initiatives, and in new or revised railroad-highway grade crossing publications.
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    Version 3.26