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Rockefeller advances draft version of STB reauthorization bill in Senate


Tomorrow, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) plans to file a draft version of the long-awaited Surface Transportation Board (STB) reauthorization bill crafted by the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee he chairs. The committee released the bipartisan draft version of the “Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2009” on Dec. 9.

The bill proposes to make the STB an independent government agency, removing it from U.S. Department of Transportation governance, and provide the board appropriations for fiscal years 2010 through 2014. The legislation also would expand the STB from three commissioners to five; add a ninth voting member to the Railroad-Shipper Transportation Advisory Council; provide funding for an Office of Public Assistance, Government Affairs and Compliance that would be authorized to mediate disputes, monitor railroad operations and appoint a customer advocate to address shipper inquiries; and enable the STB to eliminate paper barriers.

In addition, within two years of the legislation’s enactment, the STB would require Class Is and other railroads to regularly report service metrics and other performance data, including transportation cycle times and transit times, average train speed and terminal dwell time. The board also would be required to conduct asset replacement cost, rail practices and rail-car interchange studies.

“The Committee has met with a wide variety of stakeholders — both shippers and railroads — to seek their input throughout this [drafting] process,” says Jena Longo, the Senate committee’s deputy communications director. “This legislation is intended to ensure that the railroad industry is positioned to play a vibrant role in our transportation network in the future.”

The bill will help strengthen rail competition and oversight, she says.

“The draft bill will provide real reform and address the problems that exist for shippers held captive to one railroad — problems such as bottlenecks, paper barriers, and the STB’s outdated processes and procedures,” says Longo.

Rockefeller expects to place the bill on the committee’s executive agenda on Thursday, she says.

Jeff Stagl

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/14/2009