The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recognized the MTA’s Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) for a nation-leading program that dramatically improved railroad safety using flexible delineators at railroad crossings and enhanced GPS alerts. The delineators and a partnership with Google/Waze have in their first year virtually eliminated the problem of motorists inadvertently turning onto tracks, which until last year had been happening with increased frequency — 21 times a year.
The FRA is recommending other railroads across the country review research on the LIRR program and consider making similar upgrades at problematic areas.
In June 2018 as part of the LIRR Forward initiative, the railroad installed flexible, four-foot high reflective delineators, as well as extended roadway markings and additional reflective devices to better alert drivers, who may become confused by GPS directions while driving in darkness or inclement weather, that they should not make a turn onto the tracks. To further those safety efforts, the LIRR began a groundbreaking partnership with the GPS navigation app Waze, with a first-of-its-kind feature to debut on the app alerting motorists that they are approaching a grade crossing.
At the time, the LIRR had 296 grade crossings throughout system where the safety markers were installed. Since that time, two grade crossings, one at Urban Ave. in New Cassel and one at Covert Ave. in New Hyde Park, have been removed as part of the LIRR Expansion Project, which includes the elimination of six more LIRR grade crossings.
Last month, the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center included the LIRR’s implementation of delineators, road striping, and reflective markings at grade crossings as part of their published research for the FRA into grade crossing right-of-way incursion treatments. To view the report, click here.
Volpe compared delays, reports of cars on tracks entering through the grade crossing due to mistakenly turning onto the tracks, and actual collisions with trains for a period one year before, June 2017 through May 2018 and one year after the installations, June 2018 through May 2019. The study concluded that there was an 85% reduction in vehicles mistakenly turning onto the track at LIRR grade crossings. The study also points to an 86% reduction in the number of trains delayed due to reports of vehicles on tracks.
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