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Rail News Home Federal Legislation & Regulation

9/30/2008



Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Rail safety bill advances in Senate; TRACS Act stalls in House


Yesterday, the Senate suspended debate on the Railroad Safety Enhancement Act of 2008 (H.R. 2095/S. 1889), sending the bill to a floor vote, which is expected to occur tomorrow, according to the United Transportation Union (UTU).

The most comprehensive rail safety bill proposed since 1974, H.R. 2095 would limit rail workers' hours of service, tighten training standards, require conductor certification, and mandate installation of positive train control on lines used for passenger trains and to move hazardous materials no later than 2015.

The bill also would create a new high-level chief safety officer position within the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), add 200 federal rail safety inspectors and instruct the USDOT to develop a long-term strategy for improving rail safety, including an annual plan for reducing the number and rates of rail accidents, injuries and fatalities.

Meanwhile, the House on Sept. 27 failed to pass the Taking Responsible Action for Community Safety, or TRACS, Act (H.R. 6707) by a two-thirds majority vote. The bill now is considered dead for this congressional session and will have to be reintroduced next year, the UTU said.

Introduced by Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and 20 other representatives in August, the TRACS Act proposed to give the Surface Transportation Board authority over any transaction involving at least one Class I and mandate that the board consider all safety and environmental effects, including public, grade crossing and hazardous materials transportation safety; emergency response time; noise; and impacts on intercity passenger and commuter rail. The board currently oversees any proposed merger or transfer of control of two major railroads to analyze potential anti-competitive and worker safety issues.

The bill targeted Canadian National Railway Co.'s proposed acquisition of a major portion of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway Co.'s Chicago-area line, a deal opposed by many communities surrounding the Windy City.


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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