The Federal Railroad Administration funded two grants totaling $350,000 to support development of a Short Line Safety Institute. The institute will help mitigate risk associated with shipping hazardous materials by rail by working to improve the culture of safety within the shortline and regional rail industry while improving its overall safety record.

"Nearly half of all shortline and regional railroads handle some type of hazardous materials and today's grants will play an important role in ensuring those materials and all shipments reach their destination safely," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "These grants are just the latest step in our comprehensive approach to improving the safe transport of crude oil and other hazmat by rail."

The primary purpose of the institute will be to conduct safety compliance assessments to measure compliance with federal safety standards and safety culture assessments to evaluate the steps each railroad is taking to promote safe practices internally. In addition, the institute will provide safety education, training and development to managers and employees. Assessors from the institute will visit member railroads, evaluate safety compliance and safety culture and document their findings in a written report. The institute will also provide education, training and employee development following the assessments.

"Although the shortline industry has an excellent safety record overall, we owe it to the public and the industry to drive continuous safety improvement," said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo. "These grants are a first step in assisting the industry to further identify and contain risks."

The funds include a $250,000-grant to the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) to begin the pilot phase of safety culture assessments. Pilot testing will begin in January 2015 and will initially focus on the safety of crude oil transportation by rail. With the grant money, ASLRRA will conduct a comprehensive review of the existing safety programs on shortline and regional railroads; use tools developed by the University of Connecticut to identify areas of noncompliance and help railroads develop a culture of commitment to railroad safety; provide access to effective safety training processes, programs and resources and develop large libraries of training tools, technical materials and other educational resources to assist small railroads in instilling a culture of safety.

The FRA also will provide a $100,000 grant to the University of Connecticut to conduct initial work focusing on the development, testing and validation of safety education, training and related programs for short-line managers and employees.

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