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Train safety and the FAST Act

Photo of Christopher Seleski

In New York and around the country, people depend on railroad systems for passenger and freight transportation. Train safety issues may not get as much media attention as cars, tractor trailers and other commercial vehicles, but addressing them should be just as important. The National Association of Railroad Passengers states that while the federal government has been upping the safety requirements for railroads, until recently they have not received the funding necessary for making all of the changes.

By passing the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or FAST Act, legislators have allotted more than $1 billion in funding to railroad projects over the next five years. This includes a variety of programs that improve passenger transportation in both intercity and rural areas. Where necessary, lines would be moved or upgraded, and crossings would receive significant updates and improvements, as well.

Receiving funding for Positive Train Control, or PTC, is a big achievement for the railroad industry. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration, PTC involves implementing automation and other technology to improve rail safety. Through computer and wireless systems, train control addresses issues such as the following:

    •          Improper line switch derailments
    •          High speed derailments
    •          Train collisions
    •          Railroad crossing safety hazards

Positive Train Control should affect tracks covering roughly 70,000 miles, and it will involve lines on which annual transportation comprises at least 5 million gross tons. It would also include main lines that transport passengers or commuters between cities. The technology should also improve lines on which poisonous-inhalation-hazardous materials are transported.


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