When the death toll from motor vehicle accidents passed 30,000 in 1929, highway administrators and auto manufacturers increased their efforts to make travel safer.
Although they represented only 5 percent of fatalities, accidents at railway grade crossings were often so gruesome that the public called for elimination of these at-grade crossings. But estimates of the national cost to do so added up to a stupendous $48 billion. The best alternative was a long-range program to eliminate, one-by-one, crossings that were most dangerous and caused the greatest delays. Each crossing would be separated, as shown in the painting, or the highway would be relocated.
The National Industrial Recovery Act of 1934, which provided work for the unemployed, included funds for separating 70 at-grade crossings. Next, the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of April 1935 allocated $200 million for grade-crossing work. The task of making railroad crossings safer continues to this day.