U.S. Rep. Jesús "Chuy" García (D-4th)

U.S. Rep. Jesús "Chuy" García (D-4th)

Chuy wants to end RR crossing delays

Wants billions for underpasses, overpasses

By Tim Hadac

As his newly remapped congressional district takes in new turf where railroad crossing delays are a major concern, U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-4th) is showing renewed interest in the issue.

García, a member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-10th), a member of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, recently introduced the Building Much Needed Grade Separations Act of 2021.

chuygarcia

U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-4th)

The legislation establishes a first-ever stand-alone program to provide federal funding for rail grade separations.

“As the freight and passenger rail hub of the United States, Chicago has a high number of intersections where a highway crosses a railroad. These grade crossings endanger travelers, slow down passenger and freight rail service, and pollute working class Latino and Black communities like mine,” García said. “This legislation will help bring transformational investments in our infrastructure by separating rail crossings, keeping travelers safer, and protecting residents from hazardous emissions. It’s time to bring the change our communities have been needing for decades.”

The news was cheered by Archer Heights Civic Association President Thomas S. Baliga, as well as Scottsdale Neighborhood Watch President Jason Huff—both of whom have expressed ongoing concern about annoying and potentially dangerous traffic delays at rail crossings Archer and Knox and 79th and Lawndale, respectively.

“As one of the top manufacturing districts in the country and a major Metra hub, the Tenth District is riddled with railroad crossings,” Schneider said. “When a train blocks a roadway, it creates traffic backups, produces emissions, and too often holds up our first responders on their way to life-and-death emergencies. It is essential that America plans to remove these antiquated, dangerous crossings by lowering more roads…[the bill] a piece of critical infrastructure investment that rail-heavy communities like ours have been crying out for, for decades.”

There are more than 210,000 rail crossings in the United States where a train and motor vehicles cross each other. These crossings have been the site of numerous fatalities and injuries over the years, with 1,901 collisions at grade crossings in 2020 alone that resulted in 198 fatalities and 688 injuries.

In addition to preventing accidents, injuries, and fatalities, separating rail crossings can also improve passenger and freight rail service by allowing for higher speeds and more frequent service.

While there is currently a federal program to improve the safety of existing rail grade crossings, there is no standalone program for separating rail grade crossings.

The Building Much Needed Grade Separations Act :

  • Authorizes $2.5 billion over five years for a competitive highway-rail grade separation program.
  • Establishes a 10% cost share requirement for railroads that benefit from the grade separation.
  • Allows projects over $100 million to be funded through multi-year agreements, similar to how transit projects are funded through the Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program.
  • Allows rail relocation projects to qualify as long as a highway-rail crossing is eliminated as a result of the project.
  • Does not limit the amount of money one state can receive through the program.

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