The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has awarded a $1.1 million grant to Louisiana to increase safety at railroad crossings along six miles of Kansas City Southern tracks from North Street to Louise Street in Baton Rouge. The project is one of nine rail projects in eight states selected to receive nearly $10 million to upgrade and increase the safety of railroad crossings along energy routes under the Railroad Safety Grants for the Safe Transportation of Energy Products (STEP) by Rail Program. FRA received 34 eligible applications requesting five times the $10 million available for the program, or $50.8 million.

Preventing deaths at railroad crossings

“These grants will reduce accidents and fatalities at railroad crossings and help modernize our nation’s rail system,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Through a combination of these grants, education and enforcement, we can – and will – achieve our goal of preventing accidents and deaths at railroad crossings.

”Of the 15 crossings along the route, six will be closed and nine will be upgraded to have lights, gates, and other road improvements. Since 2000, there have been 11 accidents that have resulted in four injuries along this corridor in Baton Rouge. An average of eight trains travel along this route each day. In 2014, Louisiana ranked in the top five states for fatalities at railroad crossings with 13 fatalities.

Children going to school cross tracks

“Families in this neighborhood travel across these tracks every day taking their children to school and going to work. But these crossings do not have all the safety measures that families and this community deserve with so many trains transporting crude oil and other energy products. Today’s investment will go a long way to keep families safe and move us closer to achieving the goal of reducing fatalities at railroad crossings,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg.

Last year, FRA launched a new, comprehensive campaign to reverse the recent uptick in railroad crossing fatalities. The campaign includes partnering with Google and other tech companies to use FRA data that pinpoints the country’s 200,000 railroad crossings to add visual and audio alerts to map applications. FRA has also worked with local law enforcement to increase enforcement around railroad crossings. Collisions between trains and vehicles at railroad crossings are the second-leading cause of all railroad-related fatalities. In 2014, 267 individuals died in these collisions.