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The Federal Railroad Administration recently awarded more than $2 million in grants to 25 projects in 13 states supporting both trespass prevention activities and reducing railroad-related suicides on rail rights-of-way.

[Above photo by the MBTA]

Those awards represent the largest single funding announcement made in conjunction with the FRA’s National Strategy to Reduce Trespassing, which includes targeted technical assistance, collaboration, and other engagement activities with stakeholders who have a role in preventing trespassing.

FRA’s Amit Bose. Photo by AASHTO.

“No mission is more important than saving lives, and FRA is fully committed to supporting states and communities in the collective effort to prevent avoidable tragedies,” said FRA Administrator Amit Bose in a statement. “Through these grants, we will deter railroad trespassing and suicide through coordinated responses from a broad range of local organizations specializing in law enforcement, education, and mental health.”

The agency noted this safety funding supports efforts to reduce the approximately 400 trespass fatalities that occur around the country each year, almost all of which are preventable, according to FRA.

Railroad trespassing is also a factor in suicides, the agency said. From 2016 to 2021, an average of more than 236 people died by suicide within the U.S. rail system each year in addition to at least another 27 individuals injured in suicide attempts annually.

Photo by NTSB

FRA said its Railroad Trespassing Suicide Prevention Grant Program aims to prevent these tragedies through three projects utilizing targeted outreach and education campaigns.

The assistance provided through these outreach efforts may take many forms, including but not limited to, advertising of mental health services, identifying and approaching individuals in need, or other methods to recognize the signs of an individual in crisis. Grant recipients will also use grant funding to devise curriculums and train professionals to better identify and respond to crises.

In addition to providing funding, FRA said it will employ a variety of tools for addressing suicide prevention by facilitating collaboration among local law enforcement, communities, railroad carriers, educators, and mental health organizations.

Photo by the MBTA

One example of the suicide prevention efforts support by the FRA’s grants is a proposed Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) project that seeks to engage specific stakeholders and relevant communities to help reduce the occurrence of trespasser suicide by increasing employee awareness and intervention skills through employee training activities.

The FRA’s $100,000 grant to the MBTA – which is a division of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation – will support a joint 12-month suicide prevention program run by its Commuter Rail Collision Resource Committee and Samaritans (a nonprofit provider of suicide prevention services in the state), with assistance from psychologists and specialists skilled in training mental health professionals.

Meanwhile, FRA’s Railroad Trespassing Enforcement Activities Grant Program helps prevent railroad trespassing by funding hourly wages for law enforcement officers to enforce trespass violations at known trespass “hot spots.”

Grant recipients will report their activities and the associated benefits to FRA, augmenting the agency’s data collection efforts and ensuring that these projects support key objectives, including safety, equity, and inclusive approaches to infrastructure investments.

editor@aashto.org

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