Congresswoman Terri Sewell

Representing the 7th District of Alabama
 

Rep. Sewell Hosts Roundtable with Federal Railroad Administrator and Local Officials to Address Blocked Railroad Crossings

Jan 12, 2022
Press Release

Birmingham, AL — Today, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) hosted a roundtable with Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Acting Administrator Amit Bose and local elected officials from Alabama’s 7th District to address blocked railroad crossings that have plagued communities in Alabama for years.

“Today, Acting Administrator Bose had the opportunity to hear directly from local leaders in Alabama about the unacceptable train blockages that put public safety at risk and make life more difficult for Alabamians,” said Rep. Sewell. “I was pleased to hear that Administrator Bose and the Biden Administration are committed to helping resolve blocked crossings that have burdened our communities for years. It is my hope that continued cooperation with the Biden Administration combined with new resources from President Biden’s historic Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will finally bring relief to families in the 7th District. Much more work needs to be done, but I remain optimistic that continued federal and local cooperation can deliver relief to our communities.”

In November 2021, Rep. Sewell sent a letter to Administrator Bose urging swift action to address blocked railroad crossings in Alabama’s 7th Congressional District and a separate letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg inviting him to see firsthand how blockages impact the community. In response to the letter, Administrator Bose met with Rep. Sewell on November 19, 2021, and agreed to today’s roundtable discussion.

Other attendees of today’s roundtable included:

  • Commissioner Sheila Tyson (Jefferson County)
  • Earl Hilliard Jr. (City of Birmingham)
  • Councilwoman Wardine Alexander (City of Birmingham)
  • Councilman Darryl O’Quinn (City of Birmingham)
  • Police Chief Michael Roper (City of Bessemer)
  • Council President Jesse Matthews and Councilwoman Cynthia Donald (City of Bessemer)
  • Commissioner Marcus Campbell (Sumter County)
  • Mayor Willie Lake (City of York)
  • Mayor Tony Lester (City of Moundville)

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.

Reporting a Blocked Crossing:

  • Members of the community can report a blocked crossing to the Federal Railroad Administration here: https://www.fra.dot.gov/blockedcrossings/
  • Please also call the train company to report a blocked crossing.
    • CSX: 1-800-232-0144 
    • Norfolk Southern: 1-800-453-2530