News Room

Investment in rail safety is urgently needed

Written on behalf of Brian S. Kabateck | Kabateck LLP

October 21, 2016

With a staggering 244 Los Angeles deaths at railroad intersections in 2015 alone, there is a desperate need for safety overhaul and redress to protect millions of pedestrians and motorists.  In fact, Los Angeles tops the list with some of the most dangerous and deadly railroad crossings in the nation according to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)’s database.  In the absence of forcing owners and operators of railroad crossing to make safety improvements, and be held accountable to bring these crossing into safety compliance, the death tolls will continue to rise.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has launched a new campaign to reverse the rising number of fatalities at train crossroads by partnering with tech companies to use FRA data to pinpoint trouble spots. The agency is also investing in upgrades by allocating $25 million in grants to improve safety at rail junctions in California as well as 14 states and Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, the much needed funding covers less than half of all projects that requested money. 40 eligible applications requesting $67.5 million in funding falls significantly short when it is about three times less than the amount of cash that Congress allotted in 2016 through the Consolidated Appropriations Act that funds the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The rail safety grants will go towards improvements to metro stations, upgrades to railroad infrastructure, separation of railroad crossings and roads, as well as enhancements to tracks, bridges, railyards and tunnels. These types of infrastructure projects are a vital investment in public safety as rail transportation continues to play an integral role in the country by moving tons of freight and millions of passengers every day.  But there needs to be private efforts as well that falls squarely at the feet of the owners and operators of these railroad systems to improve safety of its passengers and general public at these treacherous railroad crossings.

KBK is currently suing Richmond Pacific Railroad, City of Richmond and the Country of Contra Costa for allowing an unpermitted and hazardous steel barrier to exist in front of a crossing arm in an effort to control damage to its property.  The sad truth of this barrier is that it created more harm to people in an effort to protect property.  The Richmond Pacific Railroad was well aware of motorist striking the crossing arm, which was the purpose for illegally constructing the steel barrier in the first place; to save the cost of replacing the arm.  With this “mickey-mouse” construction, it was an accident waiting to happen.

Following a spirited prayer service in church with family and friends, this 22-year-old college man was driving family members home when he inadvertently crashed into a scrap metal guardrail in front of a railroad crossing in Richmond, CA causing one of the guardrail’s steel beams to sheer off and javelin through his windshield piercing his brain. He continued to bleed until he finally passed away while being attended to by his sister and brother who were with him in the car and witnessed the horrific event.

It was only after the guardrail took the life of this man that the railroad elected to follow appropriate safety protocols by installing a plastic barricade. Sadly, it was too late for this man.

This was an accident waiting to happen as are many of our nation’s rail crossroads that are in the same predicament, in desperate need of a safety overhaul. The new grants are an important step towards safeguarding these high traffic intersections, but the buck stops at those entities and parties who control the railroad intersections in the first place. Repairs and maintenance to improve overall safety needs to start now.

If you have a loved one who lost their life due to negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct, you need a powerful legal team fighting by your side. Give one of our experienced personal injury attorneys at Kabateck LLP a call today to learn more about recovering damages and to explore your options. We can help you achieve the maximum compensation for the harm you or a loved one has suffered.