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In a letter to Congress, more than 400 mayors, common council members and other local leaders called on lawmakers to pass legislation that would improve rail safety in the nation's cities, towns and villages.
The National League of Cities (NLC) noted in its letter that the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern Railway train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, is not without precedent.
"There are more than 1,000 trains derailing each year in multiple states. With 140,000 miles of track in the United States crossing directly through thousands of cities, towns and villages, the severity of this derailment requires proactive reflection on rail safety actions that Congress can take now," the NLC's letter stated.
The group asked that rail-safety legislation include the following:
• provide the Federal Railroad Administration data to assess the risk of hazardous materials moving on fewer and longer trains and target safety oversight;
• ensure financial fines are used first for the community affected;
• expedite rail safety improvements and technology tolls to reduce rail deaths and derailments;
• expand the list of hazardous materials that are reported to state and local first responders; and
• invest in local experimentation for improving signs and signals that reduce costs and increase safety.
Lawmakers receiving the letter included U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Today, the committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled "Improving Rail Safety in Response to the East Palestine Derailment." NS President and CEO Alan Shaw is slated to testify.
Shaw has said the railroad is committed to cleaning up the site and helping the community recover from the derailment.