Batory to focus on safety 'with unrelenting vigor'

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Ronald L. Batory, Federal Railroad Administration administrator
Federal Railroad Administration
WASHINGTON — There's little doubt that safety is on Ron Batory's mind.

Within minutes of being sworn in Feb. 28, as the newest Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Batory told a small crowd in the Department of Transportation offices that his top priority will be the pursuit of safety “with unrelenting vigor.”

“Increasing public awareness of rail safety will be a consistent priority of mine at FRA,” Batory says. “Rail safety is first and foremost. Its practice is non-compromising and non-negotiable … it is the keystone of the railroad industry. Railroading is not unsafe, yet you can never assume. One mistake can be your last.”

As his first official act, Batory introduced a new effort to raise public awareness of grade crossing safety. The $4.3 million campaign, sponsored by the FRA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will use the slogan “Stop. Trains Can't.”

President Donald Trump nominated Batory in July 2017. The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation off on his nomination in August, but the transportation department and the railroad industry had to wait eight months for confirmation by the full Senate.

Senators representing New York and New Jersey blocked Batory's confirmation as leverage to secure a commitment from the Trump administration on Amtrak's Gateway projects on the Hudson River. On Feb. 13, the group, led by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. relented, and the Senate confirmed Batory by unanimous consent.

In the interim, Batory served in the secretary's office as a special advisor on railroads. Sources inside FRA say Batory was engaged with the agency's business from the start, even though he had no formal authority.

Batory said that on his watch, safety will be closely linked to technological innovation.

“Transformative technologies await us,” he says. But any steps forward will be driven by “fact-based, data-driven analysis and decision making.”

The FRA “will continue with renewed urgency in seeking ways to foster and encourage the railroad's use of technology to bring about continued safety improvements,” he says.
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