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Rail safety bill enters U.S. Senate, mirrors many of House measure's proposals


A rail safety bill that entered the U.S. House in May now has a Senate companion.

On July 26, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) introduced the Railroad Safety Enhancement Act of 2007, the Senate’s version of the Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act (H.R. 2095) introduced by Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) May 1. Backed by rail labor unions and passed by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, H.R. 2095 soon will be considered on the House floor.

The Senate’s version, which has not yet been assigned a bill number, mirrors many of H.R. 2095’s proposals. The Senate bill would authorize the U.S. Department of Transportation to update hours-of-service rules to provide rail workers more rest time and reduce “limbo time,” or hours spent traveling back to a duty station or waiting for return transportation; mandate certain usage of positive train control to reduce train accidents; and require states to report grade crossing protection measures to the federal government to help identify problem areas and reduce accidents risks.

Federal rail safety programs have not been reauthorized since 1994, and last year alone, 841 people died in railroad accidents, said Lautenberg in a prepared statement.

“A 21st century rail system cannot run on safety laws from decades ago,” he said. “We are risking people’s lives by letting train crews work too long and leaving highway crossings unsafe, [and] we need to decrease the risk of injury and death through smarter regulation and modern technology.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/31/2007