Tester, Fischer Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Bolster Safety at Rural Train Crossings

Senators’ bill comes in the aftermath of several accidents in Montana in recent years

Following a series of train accidents across Montana in the last year—including a fatal crash in Bainville in May—U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Deb Fischer (R-NE) today introduced their bipartisan Right Track Act to bolster train safety in Eastern Montana and other rural communities.

“After far too many preventable tragedies at Montana rail crossings, we’ve got to provide rural communities with the resources they need to stay safe,” said Tester. “My bipartisan Right Track Act will provide towns across our state with critical investments to improve safety infrastructure and educate the public about the risk of collisions at grade crossings. The fact is, we can’t let rural America get left behind when it comes to rail safety, and I’m going to work aggressively to get this bill passed as soon as possible.”

“Rail transportation is critical to keeping America’s businesses and communities running, but more can be done to improve rural grade crossing safety,” said Fischer. “This legislation will enable the FRA and FHWA to make recommendations, facilitate public outreach, and target resources to keep our Heartland safe.”

The Right Track Act contains three main components:

  • It will help counties and states better target safety infrastructure investments by requiring the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to provide recommendations to public and private stakeholders to reduce the number of highway-rail collisions at public at-grade crossings in counties with a population of 10 or fewer people per square mile.
  • It will increase public safety awareness by requiring the FRA and FHWA to conduct a public outreach and educational initiative to reduce collisions at grade crossings in rural counties.
  • And it will provide a dedicated pool of funding for rural crossings by increasing the authorization for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program by $10 million per year for five years, and before any funds are distributed, that funding is set-aside for grants to improve grade crossing safety in rural counties. This funding can be used to install gates, add bells and lights, and creating overpasses at train crossings.

Tester is a longtime champion of safe and secure rail service to rural communities. Last month, he personally secured a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee on recent cuts to the Empire Builder service across Montana’s Hi-Line. He also helped secure $1 billion for Amtrak in the CARES Act to maintain long distance routes during the pandemic and led the charge to restore ticket agents in Amtrak stations in Havre and Shelby.