U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) plans to introduce legislation that he says will enforce and enhance rail safety.
“Cascading catastrophic crashes, devastating derailments, serious delays and service disruptions clearly show that our rail safety protocols, standards and management are woefully insufficient. Existing federal regulation and oversight has been shamefully inadequate, resulting in weak and ineffective fines, delayed investment in infrastructure and outdated safety protocols and technology. Our rail system has been plagued by lax and sluggish oversight and strong federal regulation is needed now,” Blumenthal said.
If passed, the bill will mandate adoption of critical, life-saving technology, including alerters, inward and outward facing audio and image recorders and redundant signal protection for maintenance of way workers.
It would require continued progress toward the Positive Train Control deadline and require the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Communications Commission to better coordinate so that railroads can access the necessary spectrum to implement the technology.
The bill would also mandate the expanded use of improved technology and processes for track inspections; enhance the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) safety oversight abilities; significantly increase the civil penalties that FRA can impose on railroads while also expanding the agency’s ability to enforce penalties for safety-sensitive violations; require FRA to finalize the rule that mandates railroads create a fatigue management plan; require USDOT and FRA to develop a national close-call confidential reporting system; require FRA to meet deadlines and promptly address outstanding National Transportation Safety Board recommendations, including recommendations concerning fatigue, cameras and inspection processes, by providing quarterly reports to Congress; require FRA to strengthen ongoing oversight of Metro-North and require stronger standards for crude oil tankers and safety measures for the transportation of crude and petroleum by rail.