Weiner Strengthens Railroad Safety
Representative Anthony Weiner, a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, helped to strengthen railroad safety by voting to pass the Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2007. The legislation, which comes after a series of incidents involving train derailments in Queens, incorporates a series of new rail safety measures such as long-term planning to identify high-risk areas, an increase in the number of safety inspectors, the use of new technology, and an increase in penalties for safety violations. The bill passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 377 to 38.
The newly created Federal Railroad Safety Administration will place a new priority on safety, by creating a Chief Safety Officer to scrutinize all operations. The Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2007 also calls for the following measures:
Requires long-term planning to improve railroad safety and identify high-risk areas;
Increases the number of safety inspectors by 100 per year, for a total of 800 rail inspectors by 2011;
Requires railroads to inspect tracks for defects using ultrasound technology;
Establishes toll-free hotline for citizens to report track-crossing problems;
Raises civil penalties for railroad safety violations from $10,000 to $100,000 and raises the penalty for failing to file an accident report from $500 to $2,500.
Queens has seen a rash of rail incidents in the past year. In early July, a train carrying 33,000 gallons of propane gas derailed and jumped the tracks in Glendale, causing residents to evacuate their homes. The derailment was caused when the first three cars of a seven-car train separated from the track. Fortunately, there were no injuries. A similar incident occurred in January, when the brakes failed on a train heading into the Fresh Pond Junction yard.
"Railways are a safer and more efficient way to transport goods than trucks," said Representative Weiner. "This legislation helps ensure that the federal government and rail operators think safety first, and take every step necessary to protect our communities from trains crossing through our neighborhoods."