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NY lawmakers call for legislation to make railroad crossings safer

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VALHALLA, N.Y. — State lawmakers and the widower of the woman killed when a Metro-North train slammed into her car called for legislation to make railroad crossings safer.

On Friday, they held a news conference at the Commerce Street grade crossing in Valhalla, the site of the crash that killed Alan Brody's wife.

"This is my wife today, this is her tombstone. Taken too soon," Brody said while holding a picture of his wife's gravesite.

Ellen Brody died when a Metro-North commuter train collided with her SUV at the railroad grade crossing. The February 2015 accident is the deadliest in railroad history. Six train passengers died as well.  Alan Brody joined lawmakers calling on the state senate to pass legislation requiring the state department of transportation to study the 5,304 grade rail crossings.

One problem is the age of the warning devices.

"She's gone for a stupid mistake a sign the railroad didn't want to put up and because of that, 5 other families lost their lives too," Brody said.

Assemblyman Tom Abinanti (D-Greenburgh/Mt. Pleasant) and Senator David Carlucci (D-Westtchester/Rockland) are spearheading the legislation.

It will allow the state to hold hearings and decide where the faulty rail lines are and how much it would cost to fix them, like adding warning signals or new technology. It may even shut down the crossings deemed most dangerous.

"We have designs that come from ancient America that come from rural America while we are in modern times with bigger cars and much more traffic," Abinanti said.

"Following the tragedy in Valhalla last year, it became clear we need a comprehensive study to determine problem rail grade crossings and how we can prevent future collisions," Carlucci said.

"Although the number of fatalities and accidents at highway-railroad grade crossings have fallen steadily on a national level, over the past several years collisions have increased across New York State," Carlucci added.

The bill, S3858, would call for a study that would examine:

  • The safety of level grade crossings and the feasibility of implementing design changes to increase safety and to reduce the likelihood of obstruction at crossings.
  • Adequacy of traffic and pedestrian warning signal.
  • Federal funding available for safety improvement projects; and the feasibility of equipping passenger and commuter trains with technology to increase safety.
  • Which level grade rail crossings are considered to be the most dangerous throughout the state as defined criteria promulgated in the study.

"My family and I welcome the efforts of the Assemblyman Abinanti and Senator Carlucci as I am sure all the other victims do, too," Brody said.

"The public has to stay on top of this or nothing will change."

The bill already passed the State Assembly in March. If the Senate passes it as well, it then gets sent to Governor Cuomo's office, awaiting his signature before it can become law.