In the wake of several train derailments in Pennsylvania this year, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is pushing for the passage of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill, which he said would improve rail safety.
“The bill would provide funding for twenty new rail and hazardous materials inspectors,” said Casey, “and in addition to that the bill would allow the retention of 45 rail safety positions that were created just this year.”
The bill would also provide $3 million to expand the use of automated track inspections, support for the establishment of a Short Line Safety Institute to perform safety compliance inspections and safety training, ensure proper classification of what is being shipped so that emergency responders know what they are dealing with, and funding for a web-based hazardous materials emergency response training curriculum.
Casey said rail transportation is critical to the economy. It’s estimated that around 400,000 carloads of crude oil were shipped via rail last year. That breaks down to about 11.5 billion gallons with one tank car holding roughly 28,000 gallons. With many rail lines running near or through urban areas, Casey said ensuring they are safe is a priority, especially after three derailments in the state so far this year.
“We’ve seen this problem not only in Pennsylvania, but across the country,” Casey said. “These particular incidents of derailments serve as a wakeup call to everyone that we need new efforts to enhance safety.”
In addition the bill, Casey said reforms have been made by the industry following a compromise agreement between the Department of Transportation and the freight rail industry.
“Some of the reforms include slower speeds for trains operating in urban areas, increased emergency responder training and increased track inspections,” he said.
According to a release from Casey’s office, THUD legislation could be on the Senate floor as soon as next week.