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Rail News: Communication and Signal

Rail crossing, haz-mat safety bill enters Senate

Another federal bill aimed at improving rail safety has arrived on Capitol Hill. On Monday, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced the Rail Crossing and Hazardous Materials Transport Act (S. 1438), which proposes to double the number of federal safety inspectors, impose tougher penalties on rail safety violations and direct millions of federal dollars toward rail infrastructure improvements.

Similar to a bill Schumer championed two years ago, S. 1438 would set more stringent minimum and maximum fines for fatal train accidents, and establish requirements for investigations, inspections and the use of new technologies to improve grade crossing and haz-mat safety. The bill also would create a grant program authorizing $50 million in federal grants for railroads and municipalities to improve rail infrastructure.

In addition, the legislation would set age restrictions for rail cars carrying hazardous materials, and mandate that all rail cars 15 years or older be inspected and meet federal requirements within one year, and be inspected and upgraded every 15 years.

“My bill would dramatically increase the fines for violating FRA rules. Rail companies must haul their share of the burden in ensuring that our rail system is as safe as possible, for the physical safety of our passengers, motorists, rail workers and pedestrians,” said Schumer yesterday during his testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security. “Congress, the [U.S.] Department of Transportation, state and local agencies, and the rail companies must all work together to minimize dangerous spills. We should not wait until a fatality to act.”

In February 2005, Schumer introduced the Railroad Crossing and Hazardous Materials Transport Safety Act of 2005 (S. 230), which died in the 109th Congress.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/23/2007