U.S. Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), chair and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Transportation, respectively, urged U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to increase safety resources for shortline railroads, which make up one third of the nation's rail network, but lack the funding and support that larger, Class 1 railroads receive.
“As we discussed when you testified before our subcommittee, there is no silver bullet to improving rail safety. It is a complicated multi-faceted issue involving prevention, mitigation and response aspects,” the senators wrote in the letter. “The proposed Short Line Railroad Safety Institute could be an important part of the larger solution and would help improve the safe transportation of crude oil and other hazardous materials.”
The letter sent follows an April hearing held by Murray and Collins to specifically focus on safety issues related to rail shipment of crude oil. Secretary Foxx, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman, Director of the Seattle Office of Emergency Management Barb Graff and Rangeley, ME, Fire Chief Tim Pellerin, who led emergency response efforts after a train carrying crude oil derailed in Lac-Megantic, QB, Canada, in 2013, each testified at that hearing.
The letter also stated, “It is our understanding that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has already discussed this proposed safety institute with the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association and that the FRA has indicated its support for further developing the proposal. This is definitely a step in the right direction and we would like to commend the FRA for acknowledging the unique challenges that confront shortlines across the nation.”