A Safety Fail From the Federal Railroad Administration

On the Streetsblog Network today, Systemic Failure highlights an obscure federal regulation that makes walking and biking less convenient. At issue is the Federal Railroad Administration’s requirement that trains to sound their horns when approaching a site where tracks intersect with a road.

In Lincoln, Nebraska, two intersections are set to be closed (red) and one will be grade separated (green) in response to the Federal Railroad Administration's hornblowing rule. Photo: Systemic Failure

Pseudonymous author “Drunk Engineer” explains how this seemingly innocuous regulation actually degrades the pedestrian environment:

The Hornblowing Rule is possibly the stupidest idea to ever come out of the FRA. It created an elaborate, unfunded Federal mandate for grade crossings. If local communities do not pay ransom — tens of millions of dollars — for grade crossing improvements, then the Feds have them subjected to round-the-clock horn blasts.

Now in some cases, local communities do pay up. But in a lot of cases, they simply eliminate the grade crossing — problem solved! For car drivers, it is no big deal. They can drive to the nearest Federally-approved crossing. But for pedestrians or cyclists, this can be a huge inconvenience if the nearest crossing is miles away. Whole neighborhoods can get cut off.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Bike Lane Living shares a calculator that computes how much cyclists save by choosing not to drive. Riding in Riverside says California High Speed Rail is a far better use of public money than unemployment insurance during this economic crisis. And Cycling Solution points out that even European countries overlook the importance of improving driver behavior to reduce traffic injuries and deaths.