Senator Joseph Robach announced today that he will be introducing legislation in the Senate which will require the State of New York to implement a statewide toll-free emergency notification system ("ENS") that would enable people to report safety problems at railroad crossings by calling a 1-800 number. The legislation will require the New York State Department of Transportation to implement the toll-free ENS and they will be responsible for monitoring and maintaining the data it generates.
According to the Federal Rail Administration, in New York State, there were 39 accidents at railroad crossings in 2002, 42 accidents in 2003, and 22 accidents from January 2004 through September 2004. A June 2004 study by the FRA also brought to the public’s attention that out of 199 CSX highway crossings inspected 41% showed some type of defect.
"This legislation makes sense" stated Senator Robach. "With the high amount of defects found at crossings across the State, everyone must continue to stay alert and report problems immediately. This bill provides people with a way to work with local agencies before accidents happen."
This legislation was prompted by the rise in railroad crossing accidents throughout New York State. Most notably, the 2004 accident in Henrietta, New York which killed a couple when a CSX train crashed into their car. CSX later admitted that the crossing gates at the tracks were not working properly.
"Last year’s crash on Winton Road has had a tremendous affect on individuals throughout the state. My heart continues to goes out to the O’Connor family and I am anxious to enact legislation to stop another situation like this from happening again in our community. While this legislation will not fix the problem in its entirety, it is a step in the right direction."
The legislation is based on the Federal Railroad Administration’s response to the Swift Rail Development Act of 1994 passed by Congress. The agency developed software for a toll-free emergency notification system. The software allows the timely reporting of emergencies, problems and malfunctions, at highway-rail intersections to a centralized emergency response communication center or a railway dispatch center. The purpose of the program is to improve highway-rail crossing safety by lowering the number of accidents and fatalities; improve rail crossing data and providing the public with a means to notify railroads and public safety officials of problems and emergencies at rail crossings.
The FRA developed the initial software for Texas, as part of a pilot program. Currently, Texas is the only state in the nation to have a statewide toll-free ENS. Approximately 9,500 calls were made to Texas’ toll-free number in 2003.
This legislation was also been introduced by Assemblyman Ryan Scott Karben in the New York State Assembly.