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Bill Aims To Improve Crossing Safety

A tragedy that occurred in Bainville last May and others across the Hi-Line have helped led to a proposal that seeks to bolster safety at the nation’s rural train crossing.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont, and U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., are teaming up to reintroduce two bipartisan bills improving safety at rural train crossings and addressing instances of blocked highway-railroad crossings across the U.S.

“We’ve seen far too many preventable tragedies at Montana railroad crossings, and it’s clear that we’ve got to provide rural communities with the resources they need to keep folks safe,” said Tester. “These bills will provide towns across Montana with critical investments to improve public safety surrounding railways, and help ensure Congress has the necessary data to ensure our highways are safer, more efficient, and can get folks where they need to go faster.”

Rocky Norby of Sidney was killed when an Amtrak train struck his tractor on May 29, 2020, on Road 1013. Ashton Stovern, 24, of Sidney died in a July 28, 2020, semi accident near Brockton. Two men — Caleb Fellborn, 21, and Bryan Pederson, 18 — died Aug. 17, 2019, when a train struck their semi near Bainville.

Since that time, the Roosevelt County commissioners approved an agreement with BNSF to put up arms, lights and a culvert at the location.

Roosevelt County Commissioner Duane Nygaard said the project will be completed in late spring or summer.

Sens. Tester and Fischer are reintroducing the Right Track Act to improve train safety in Eastern Montana and other rural communities.

“We will be in support of anything that makes crossings safer,” Nygaard said.

The Right Track Act contains three major components: •It will help counties and states better target safety infrastructure investments by requiring the Federal Rail Administration and the Federal Highway Administration 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.

•It will provide a dedicated pool of funding for rural crossings by increasing the authorization for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program by $10 million per year for five years. This funding can be used to install gates, add bells and lights, and create overpasses at train crossings.

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