Congress Set to Consider Improved Rail Safety Bill This Week
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) joined elected officials in Dunkirk, New York to announced significant progress in national rail safety standards included in the Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act (H.R. 2095), scheduled for passage in the House of Representatives this week. In April, following a train derailment in Dunkirk and others in Erie County, Congressman Higgins a member of the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee called for several changes to track safety regulations and inspection procedures.
“This week our Nation takes a substantial step forward in better protecting rail passengers, workers, first responders and residents in rail communities,’ said Congressman Higgins., a co-sponsor of the Railroad Safety Improvement Act. “Immediate investments in inspectors and work toward a long-term safety strategy will lead to better infrastructure, accountability and oversight.”
The Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act contains a number of provisions that heighten existing rail safety standards including:
· Reorganizing the FRA into the Federal Railroad Safety Administration, with safety as the explicit highest priority of the agency;
· Doubling the number of federal safety inspectors to 800 and providing funding for more track inspection equipment;
· Increasing civil and criminal penalties for safety infractions;
· Reducing the number of hours an employee can work and increasing the amount of rest time between shifts.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), over the last 10 years there have been 12 derailments in Chautauqua County and 155 in Erie County.
Last December Congressman Higgins wrote to the Federal Railroad Administration asking that it analyze the safety of bridges in Chautauqua and Erie Counties. In March the FRA responded that it does not have the resources to review every bridge in WNY however, FRA Commissioner Joseph Boardman assured Higgins that FRA would be conducting the best assessment they could across NYS. In May the Congressman participated in a T&I Railroad Subcommittee hearing that helped to develop the rail safety legislation the House will consider this week.