U.S. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member and chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Transportation, respectively, have introduced a bill that would authorize a new Short Line Rail Safety Institute the senators say will enhance the safety practices and culture of shortline railroads.
The legislation would authorize funding to support grants for research, development, evaluation and training efforts to support the 550 shortline railroad companies that operate more than 50,000 miles of track in the United States.
“Whether a train is carrying crude oil on a major rail line or on a short, local route through small towns across America, we need to make sure everyone is safe, both on the train and near the tracks,” Sen. Murray said. “We need to have the right policies in place to prevent accidents and respond to emergencies wherever they happen and establishing a Short Line Rail Safety Institute is a strong step in the right direction.”
The senators said the new Short Line Rail Safety Institute would assess the operations and safety programs of shortline railroads; develop best practices and work with shortlines to implement these practices; provide professional on-site safety training for shortline employees; purchase and utilize safety training assets (such as locomotive simulators); assist the Federal Railroad Administration in implementing its railroad research and development and outreach programs and tailor such programs for shortline railroad operations and help improve safety culture, including a reduction in the frequency and severity of injuries and incidents, as well as improved compliance with regulatory requirements.
The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) President Richard Timmons said the legislation “will do much to bring a continuous and active focus on safety with the objective of assisting individual shortlines to improve their safety performance. Sens. Collins and Murray are creating a very important tool for a very important task and the entire shortline industry will be an enthusiastic partner in this effort.”
Timmons added, “Shortlines are small businesses with far fewer employees, most of whom have multiple responsibilities. A large percentage of their revenue goes to track rehabilitation, which itself is a driver of safety. The Collins/Murray initiative will help shortlines to do much more and to do it much better.”