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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation R-17-008
Details
Synopsis: On February 3, 2015, at 6:26 p.m. eastern standard time, a 2011 Mercedes Benz ML350 sport-utility vehicle driven by a 49-year-old female, traveled northwest on Commerce Street in Valhalla, New York, toward a public highway-railroad grade crossing on the Harlem Subdivision of the Metro-North Railroad. Traffic on Commerce Street was heavy and congested when the driver entered the boundary of the highway-railroad grade crossing and stopped. The highway railroad grade crossing consisted of two highway lanes (one for each direction) and two railroad tracks, and was equipped with an active grade crossing warning system consisting of flashing lights and gates. After the driver entered the boundary of the highway railroad grade crossing, the warning system activated and the gates came down. About the same time, Metro North Railroad passenger train 659, consisting of eight passenger railcars, traveled north and approached the highway-railroad grade crossing at a speed of 59 miles per hour. The engineer from train 659 activated the train’s emergency brakes about 230 feet before the highway-railroad grade crossing and collided with the sport utility vehicle at a speed of 51 miles per hour. Metro-North Railroad estimated 645 passengers were onboard train 659 at the time of the accident. Five passengers died and 10 passengers were injured, all in the lead railcar. The driver of the sport-utility vehicle also died.
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION: After a full risk assessment is complete, require all rail transit properties to implement corrections based on their findings that will mitigate the risk of highway-railroad grade crossing accident severity.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Mode: Railroad
Location: Valhalla, NY, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA15MR006
Accident Reports: ​Preliminary Report: Highway-Railroad Grade Crossing CollisionHighway-Railroad Grade Crossing Collision, Commerce Street, Valhalla, New York, February 3, 2015
Report #: RAR-17-01
Accident Date: 2/3/2015
Issue Date: 8/22/2017
Date Closed: 3/18/2019
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FTA (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: FTA
Date: 3/18/2019
Response: We note that you have identified one transit system, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), that provides tractive power to trains via a third rail power source at or near a highway–railroad grade crossing. We further note that you have issued a special directive to the CTA and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) conveying the circumstances of the Valhalla, New York, accident and directing IDOT to review, validate, and approve of CTA’s corrective action plan, then report the findings to your agency for review. These actions satisfy Safety Recommendations R-17 7 and -8, which are classified CLOSED--ACCEPTABLE ACTION. Thank you for taking these actions to improve safety at highway–railroad grade crossings.

From: FTA
To: NTSB
Date: 5/11/2018
Response: -From K. Jane Williams, Acting Administrator: The FTA determined through data reported to the National Transit Database, that only the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) operates third-rail service at or near highway-railroad grade crossings and is subject to FTA's safety jurisdiction. Per the enclosure that accompanies this letter, on March 30, 2018, the FTA issued Special Directive (SD) 18-3 to CTA and its state safety oversight agency, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). The SD notifies the agencies of the accident and directed CTA to conduct a risk assessment for its highway-railroad grade crossings at or near its third-rail system and develop a corrective action plan (CAP), as appropriate. In addition, the SD requires IDOT to review, validate and approve CTA's risk assessment and CAP, and then report the findings from the risk assessment to FTA. In light of these developments, we request the NTSB classify the safety recommendations R-17-007 and R-17-008 as "Closed Acceptable Action." I look forward to continuing to work with you on important safety issues.

From: NTSB
To: FTA
Date: 3/8/2018
Response: We note that the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is the only transit operator in the country receiving federal assistance that has a third rail system operating at or near a highway–railroad grade crossing. We further note that you plan to issue a special directive to notify the CTA and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) about this accident and advise them to conduct a risk assessment. Please send us the finished document that you send to the CTA and the IDOT, as well as the results of their risk assessments once they have been completed. Pending our review of the directive and the assessment results, Safety Recommendations R-17-7 and -8 are classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FTA
To: NTSB
Date: 12/4/2017
Response: -From K. Jane Williams, Acting Administrator: The FTA determined through data reported to the National Transit Database (NTD), that only the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) operates third-rail service at or near highway-railroad grade crossings and receives federal financial assistance. The other rail transit properties that receive federal financial assistance and have third-rail systems do not operate at or near highway-railroad grade crossings. We have enclosed our NTD data analysis report for your review and intend to issue a Special Directive to CTA and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) to notify them of this accident and advise them to conduct a risk assessment for their highway-railroad grade crossings. The FT A will require IDOT to report the findings from the risk assessment back to FTA, and for IDOT to also issue risk mitigation plans for CTA to complete. The FTA will work with IDOT to ensure that all risks are mitigated to an acceptable level at CTA. Thank you for the opportunity to respond to these NTSB recommendations. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me or Dr. Thomas Littleton, FTA's Associate Administrator for the Office of Transit Safety and Oversight.

From: FTA
To: NTSB
Date: 11/21/2017
Response: -From Thomas Littleton, PhD, Associate Administrator, Office of Transit Safety and Oversight, Federal Transit Administration: Thank you for your letter regarding the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) Safety Recommendations R-17-007 and R-17-008, which arose from NTSB 's investigation of the February 3, 2015, accident in Valhalla, NY, when a Metro-North Railroad train collided with a personal vehicle stopped on the highway-railroad grade crossing, resulting in several fatalities and injuries. Thank you also for your letter regarding the NTSB Safety Recommendation R-17-013, which arose from NTSB' s ongoing investigation of an accident in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, as well as other railroad and rail transit accidents where inward- and outward­ facing audio and image recorders provided or could have provided an unequivocal record of a train operator's actions. We are finalizing the response to the recommendations and anticipate providing a reply soon. Safety is a core value for the DOT. We are committed to working with the NTSB to address critical safety issues and are focused on appropriately addressing the safety recommendations in your reports.

From: NTSB
To: FTA
Date: 8/22/2017
Response: On July 25, 2017, the NTSB adopted its report Highway-Railroad Grade Crossing Collision, Commerce Street, Valhalla, New York, February 3, 2015, RAR-17/01. The details of this accident investigation and the resulting safety recommendations may be found in the attached report, which can also be accessed at http://www.ntsb.gov. Among the Safety Recommendations are two issued to the Federal Transit Administration, which can be found on page 56 of the report. The NTSB is vitally interested in these recommendations because they are designed to prevent accidents and save lives. We would appreciate a response within 90 days, detailing the actions you have taken or intend to take to implement these recommendations.