Gov. Murphy signs bill requiring vegetation management at New Jersey grade-crossings

The new law aims to improve safety across the state by ensuring a clear line of site for rail operators, motorists and pedestrians.

Christen Lacorte Railcrossingsign Unsplash
Christen Lacoret/Unsplash

A bill signed into law by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy requires railroad operators to keep good vegetation management at grade-crossings across the state. Legislators and the governor said the benefit will be increased safety for passenger trains, commercial operators, motorists and pedestrians traversing the state’s grade crossings.  

“Vegetation can pose a serious hazard to passenger and commercial train traffic, as well as those crossing railroad tracks,” said Gov. Murphy. “This legislation will improve safety on our railroads and hold railroad operators responsible for removal of obstructive vegetation at our many railroad crossings.”

The bill, known as S3425, says rail operators must destroy or remove obstructive vegetation upon and within its right-of-way at each intersection with a public road or highway, for 300 feet from the edge of the public road or highway or such other distance that the Commissioner of Transportation determines to be reasonably safe.

According to Federal Railroad Administration data, New Jersey has more than 5,000 private and public highway-rail crossings with just shy of 400 of those owned by New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit).

“NJ Transit’s top priority is always the safety of our customers, employees and the public so we support initiatives like this to increase safety for all,” said NJ Transit President and CEO Kevin Corbett. “Removal of vegetation, especially near grade crossings, enhances the line of sight for our locomotive engineers as well as drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. That’s why these efforts have and will continue to be a critical component of our preventative maintenance efforts.”

According to Notice of Awards page on NJ Transit’s website, the agency most recently awarded a contract for more than $1.27 million at the end of February 2019 to DeAngelo Brothers LLC for systemwide weed spraying on its rail property. NJ Transit also incorporates tree trimming into its preventative maintenance program.

Primary sponsors of the bill include State Sens. Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. and M. Teresa Ruiz, and Assemblymembers Yvonne Lopez, Daniel R. Benson and BettyLou DeCroce, who all voiced their opinion that the law will enhance safety.

“Vegetation impedes the flow of transportation and presents safety hazards whether it be roads with automobiles and schools buses or on the tracks with trains,” said State Sen. Diegnan. “This law will enhance the safety of railroad crossings in the state by providing travelers on the road, or on the track, an unobstructed view while crossing.”

The bill also had the backing of union leaders.

“Clearing vegetation and obstructions from all railroad crossings is just another measure that will keep the driving public, our children and railroad employees safe,” said Jerome Johnson, general chairman and president of SMART Transportation Division Local 60.

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