House Dems plan bill to boost commuter rail safety

 

A group of Democratic lawmakers in the House who represent districts in New York and Connecticut are planning to introduce a bill to boost railway safety after a series of high-profile accidents last year.

Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Jim Himes (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) said their measure would address concerns about gaps in the regulations of U.S. railways that were raised after their states' Metro-North commuter railway suffered four accidents in 2013.

The lawmakers said their measure would task federal regulators with creating a firm time line for the implementing of computerized train operation systems known as Positive Train Control. The bill would also require the railroad industry to create a railroad safety risk reduction program, which the sponsors of the railway safety measure said was a regulation that has languished since 2008.

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The measure would also end a grandfather clause that has allowed the Metro-North to operate without having an alert system that would provide warning when a driver appears to be sitting idle too long while a train is moving.

The lawmakers said the changes they were including in their proposed legislation were long overdue.

“Our national rail safety standards badly need an update,” the legislation's sponsors said in a joint statement that was released by their offices on Monday.

“Crashes and deaths should not be on people’s minds when they get on a train, yet that is what our constituents have to live with," the lawmakers continued. "Fatigue in the railroad industry continues to be a significant factor in railroad accidents. Our common sense legislation would help move us in a safer direction.”

The lawmakers did not specify if there would be a companion measure to their legislation filed in the Senate.