Rail bill now includes plan for congested, dangerous Minnesota train crossings

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Railroad traffic is causing gridlock across Minnesota, in some cases even slowing down ambulances as they rush to emergencies.

It's a story that's reached Washington, where a measure aimed at providing relief at the state's busy rail crossings is now part of a larger transportation bill currently making its way through Congress.

The provision, which is the work of Minnesota Sen. Amy Klubuchar, was approved for inclusion in the "Railroad Reform, Enhancement, and Efficiency Act" by the Commerce Committee, according to a press release from the Democratic lawmaker.

Klobuchar lobbied for the measure after meeting with local leaders across Minnesota to discuss blocked rail crossings.

She said she learned that auto traffic has apparently been held up for hours in certain instances, and that in others, "parts of communities" have been left isolated, the release says.

“Blocked rail crossings not only inconvenience drivers, they delay emergency vehicles and threaten public safety,”Klobuchar said."I look forward to this provision moving forward, and I will continue doing everything I can to improve rail safety across Minnesota and the country.”

What would the bill do?

The provision would "ensure the U.S. Secretary of Transportation provides tools and best practices to states" to address safety issues – like ambulance delays – that arise as the result of congested rail crossings.

It would also direct transportation officials to develop highway-rail crossing action plans that include accident data for every state, not just Minnesota.

The bill that the provision is attached to is primarily intended to improve Amtrak's rail system in the wake of several derailments, including one last month that killed eight commuters near Philadelphia, according to The Hill.

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