Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) sent a letter to Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Deputy Administrator Amit Bose urging swift action to address blocked railroad crossings in Alabama’s 7th Congressional District. She also sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg inviting him to visit the district to see first-hand how rail crossing blockages impact small businesses, students, and community members. The letters are the latest of Rep. Sewell’s ongoing efforts to address blocked railroad crossings which have plagued the 7th District for years. 

“Our communities in the 7th District continue to suffer from unacceptable train blockages that put public safety at risk and make life more difficult for my constituents,” said Rep. Sewell. “ I am working with the Biden Administration to find long-term solutions at the federal level, but in the meantime, swift action is urgently needed to solve the current crisis.  It is my hope that continued cooperation on the federal, state, and local level will prompt much-needed action.”

In December 2019, the FRA launched a Blocked Crossing Incident Reporter website where the public and law enforcement can report the date, time, location, and duration that a crossing was blocked. The agency intends to use the data collected to achieve a better understanding of the location, duration, and impacts of blocked crossings. 

In 2018, Rep. Sewell co-authored a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a report on the impact of longer freight trains and blocked railroad crossings. A number of recommendations from the resulting GAO report were included in President Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which passed the House of Representatives on Friday, November 5th, 2021.  Rep. Sewell was also a strong advocate for the rail funding in the legislation, which includes $5 billion for rail improvements and safety grants, as well as the $3 billion for grade crossing safety improvements to help resolve the rail crossing blockages that have impacted underserved communities for too long.

President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act contains several provisions that address blocked railroad crossings:

  • The Railroad Crossing Elimination Program - This section would authorize $500 million a year for the new Railroad Crossing Elimination grant program. This includes a small set-aside to carry out a highway-rail grade crossing safety information and education program.
  • Blocked Crossing Portal - This section would require the Federal Railroad Administration to establish a blocked crossing portal to collect information about blocked highway-rail grade crossings from the public. The Federal Railroad Administration is to use the information to assess the impact of blocked crossings, inform outreach to communities and railroads about blocked crossings, and produce an annual report on the program. This pilot program will expire three years after enactment.
  • National Academies Study on Trains Longer Than 7,500 Feet -This section requires the Secretary to spend between $1 million and $2 million on a report by the National Academies on the operations, safety, and efficiency of trains longer than 7,500 feet, to be submitted to relevant Congressional committees within two years. 
  • Railroad point of contact for public safety issues - This section would require all railroads to provide contact information on a public website so that the public could report public safety issues to the railroad.

The letter to FRA Deputy Administrator Bose can be found here. The letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Buttigieg can be found here.