Posts Tagged ‘blocked crossings’

H.R. 2 passes U.S. House and moves to Senate

H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, a massive $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that contains provisions important to members of all crafts in the SMART Transportation Division and to sheet metal workers, passed through the U.S. House of Representatives by a 233-188 vote on July 1.

A major component of this bill is the INVEST in America Act that passed the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in late June.

H.R. 2 contains:

  • a two-person freight crew requirement
  • bus and transit operator safety measures
  • blocked-rail-crossing enforcement
  • a cross-border solution
  • yardmaster hours of service
  • additional funding for Amtrak
  • requirements for carriers to meet CDC guidelines and to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to transportation workers

“This is an unprecedented step ahead for many of our union’s major issues through the legislative process,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson said. “Our concerns were heard and addressed by the writers of this bill — safety for workers and communities alike in the bus and transit operator safety measures and in the crew-size provision, funding for Amtrak, and a number of other provisions intended to rebuild and transform the nation’s roads and rails.

“Federal agencies and big-pocketed lobbyists have tried to obstruct the essential protections that this bill provides to our members and to the people who work on, live near and use our nation’s transportation network. These representatives all had the foresight and initiative to move them forward.”

Ian Jefferies, CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), earlier in the week had an op-ed published that was highly critical of the legislation, targeting the two-person crew portion and one that dealt with study of potential rail transport of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) specifically, saying the bill “woefully missed the mark.”

In the column, Jefferies also argued that legislators were “putting their collective thumbs on the scale” regarding railroad safety in regulating the crew-size safety issue.

The INVEST in America component of the Moving Forward Act was shepherded by House T&I Chairperson Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, through the committee June 18. He commented on July 1 after the bill’s passage:

“Passage of this bold, forward-thinking infrastructure bill is proof that finally, there is a majority of us in Congress who won’t accept the status quo and instead are willing to fight for a new vision that invests in our communities, addresses the climate crisis, and creates better opportunities for all. And we get there by putting millions of people to work in jobs that cannot be exported, while harnessing American-made materials, ingenuity, and innovation,” he said. “With the Moving Forward Act, we make it clear that our infrastructure does not have to be a product of the past, with crumbling roads and bridges, unreliable transit and rail networks, inequitable outcomes, and little regard to our changing climate and our changing economy. I challenge my Senate colleagues to join the House in thinking big and being bold on long-overdue investments not only in our infrastructure, but also in the communities and the people we all represent.”

Leaders in the SMART-TD National Legislative Department thanked DeFazio and the bipartisan group of Democrats and a trio of Republicans who supported H.R. 2.

“As if we need any additional evidence that elections matter, this result shows that the 2018 change of party control in the House made a difference,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “We appreciate those legislators who supported this legislation in its journey through the House. There is more work to be done and a path to be cleared for this legislation, and our membership is more than willing to put in the time to make legislators understand why the bill provisions are necessary.”

The Moving Forward Act now moves to the United States Senate, where, according to Politico.com, Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, called the bill “nonsense,” “absurd,” “pure fantasy” and vowed that it will die before getting to the White House, where the president has threatened to veto the bill.

A message from President Ferguson on the INVEST in America Act

March 20, 2020

All Members — SMART Transportation Division

Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today, House Democrats released the text of a $500 billion five-year funding authorization bill that defines their vision for the future of transportation in America, as well as outlines their plans to refresh and renew the infrastructure of the nation’s surface transportation network.

The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act is the result of countless hours of work by this Union on the Hill and in the halls of Congress. The INVEST in America Act reauthorizes funding set to expire Sept. 30, but more so, sets standards for safety, training, and transportation reform that have long been sought by the members of SMART Transportation Division including:

  • Two-Person Crews;
  • Operator Assault;
  • Yardmaster Hours of Service
  • a “Cross Border” fix.

Additionally, Amtrak would see its funding triple to $29 billion over the five-year period of the bill, allowing for expansion of national, state and regional routes and facility modernization. Funding for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program also would be increased to $7 billion to fund passenger and freight rail projects. Provisions for/or against the transportation of liquid natural gas (LNG) via rail tank cars, blocked railroad crossings, and excessive freight train length, among others, also have been included.

Our National Legislative Office has been hard at work in Washington, D.C., to convey our issues to both sides of the aisle in the U.S. House and Senate, and the provisions within this bill are the fruits of that labor.

Undoubtedly, House Democrats have heard our cries and have answered the call. By including our issues within the context of this bill, they have let America know that the only safe operation of a Class I freight train is with a two-person crew; that our bus drivers and operators have the right to a safe work environment; and that the public should be shielded from the risks that rail carriers will take in the name of greed.

But make no mistake, this bill still has a long road to travel and a lot of heavy-handed opposition standing before it in the Republican-controlled Senate. We will need all hands on deck to protect the provisions we have all fought so hard for to survive that journey.

I am asking you to please watch this bill as it moves through the legislative process and see who and what hurdles it faces. I’m asking you to please pay attention to the party affiliations of the individuals as the yeas and nays are registered when the bill is voted upon. And I am asking you to listen to the rhetoric and testimony that will affect its final appearance. Once the dust has settled, I will call on you to please support those who support you and your family’s well-being, and I firmly believe that picture will be crystal clear.

There are only two parties at the table. The Democrats wrote it into the bill, only the Republicans will take it out.

Fraternally yours,

 

 

 

 

Jeremy Ferguson
President — Transportation Division

ABOUT THE INVEST IN AMERICA ACT

Ohio members: Contact commissioners to get GOP reps aboard H.B. 186!

Ohio State Legislative Director Stuart Gardner reports that we need some activism to push H.B. 186, which is comprehensive railroad safety legislation, over the line and out of the Ohio House Transportation and Public Safety Committee.

First, he is seeking photos of example of good and poor lighting conditions in yards to submit to state representatives in regards to H.B. 186. Please email those to: smartunionoslb@gmail.com.

Also, after five hearings on the bill, some Republican representatives on the committee remain undecided about the need for this legislation, especially after carrier testimony claimed that it would hinder their ability to operate and be too costly to them to improve yard lighting and walkway safety.

Gardner requests that members contact their county commissioners and explain to them why their state representative needs to support this bill.

H.B. 186 deals with:

  • Blocked crossings
  • Two-person crews
  • Yard lighting
  • Yard walkway safety

“Anything that is worth saving takes effort from everyone involved,” Gardner said. “It’s all hands on deck, battle stations. Take a stand, and be heard!”

The bill was first heard by the committee in September, and SMART-TD members as well as members from the BLET have stated the case for the bill on a number of occasions.

But now, state representatives Doug Green, James Hoops, Don Jones, Jeffrey LaRe, Susan Manchester, Gayle Manning, Riordan McClain, Tom Patton and Reggie Stoltzfus need to hear it from someone in addition to rail workers, who already know how important this issue is.

Those people are the county commissioners from 22 different Ohio counties.

“The topic that should really resonate with these county commissioners is the blocked crossing issue,” Gardner said. “With these crossings being blocked by the carriers by longer and longer trains, it prevents public service vehicles — police, fire and EMS from reaching their destinations in a timely manner, without any additional delay, a delay that may have deadly consequences for those that need the help.

“Now is the time for all of us exercise our collective strength,” he said. “Please ask those county commissioners to encourage the representative in their district to support H.B. 186. This is a common-sense approach to railroad safety, that we need their support with.”

The list of commissioners is available here.

More testimony needed in a fifth hearing on Ohio rail safety bill H.B. 186

State Legislative Director Stu Gardner reports that an additional round of testimony has been scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019, in House Hearing Room 114 in the Ohio Statehouse, 1 Capitol Square in Columbus, regarding H.B. 186, a comprehensive railroad safety bill under consideration in the state’s House of Representatives.

Only proponents of the bill who have not given testimony previously are eligible to state their case for this important legislation that will protect lives and preserve the safety of railroad operations in Ohio.

“Testimony is to be given by those persons (or groups) that have not testified on H.B. 186 previously,” Gardner said. “I am requesting that if you have not given testimony previously, or wish to add new testimony that you have not given before on H.B. 186, now is the time to do so.”

Gardner, rail safety legal expert Larry Mann, members of the Ohio State Legislative Board, SMART-TD members and representatives from the BLET have provided testimony in favor of this legislation, which covers the following safety issues:

  • Two-person freight train crews
  • Proper walkways in railroad yard safety legislation
  • Railroad yard lighting safety legislation
  • Blocked crossings

In an email to members, Gardner indicated that the rail carriers requested a fifth hearing (Ohio bills typically receive three committee hearings before being voted upon for advancement to the full state House) due to Mann’s strong proponent testimony delivered Nov. 19.

However, more TD members and others concerned about railroad safety need to step up and be heard, and this fifth hearing could be the last chance to convince representatives that H.B. 186 deserves passage.

“It is up to all of our advocates of the Ohio State Legislative Board and the SMART Transportation Division to step up and let these committee members hear the truth one more time,” Gardner said. “Please come and fill the hearing room, give testimony and show these representatives what we are made of.”

The bill is sponsored by Ohio Reps. Mike Sheehy, a retired rail worker and member of the SMART TD Alumni Association, and Brent Hillyer.

Proponent testimony must be provided to Matthew Taylor in Committee Chairman Doug Green’s office (Matthew.Taylor@ohiohouse.gov.) with the deadline for electronic submission of both written and in-person testimony and a witness slip being 3 p.m. Dec. 9, the Monday before the hearing. On the day of the hearing, witnesses have the option of presenting their testimony in person before the committee if they have submitted the testimony and required witness slip by the deadline.

Instructions for those wishing to testify before the committee:

Prior to committee:

  • The House Transportation and Public Safety Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday mornings at 11 a.m. in House Hearing Room 114 in the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.
  • Testimony is to be electronically submitted to the chairman’s office by 3 p.m. Monday afternoon.
  • A witness slip (fillable PDF) is to be completed prior to the committee meeting and should also be submitted electronically to the chairman’s office.
  • Testimony and the witness slip can be submitted at the same time and there is no need to send multiple emails.
  • Materials may be submitted to Matthew Taylor in Green’s Office at (Matthew.Taylor@ohiohouse.gov.)

Day of committee:

  • Folks may arrive any time before the committee hearing begins.
  • There is no need to check in with staff so long as testimony was submitted properly.
  • Attendees may take a seat in the audience.
  • As committee begins, the chairman will announce the hearing of bills. As testimony begins on H.B. 186, the chairman will call each individual up by the name submitted on the witness slip.
  • After testimony has been given, the individual may remain in the committee room for the duration of the hearing.

Instructions for those wishing to submit written-only testimony:

  • Written-only testimony is for those who may not be able to attend the committee hearing to testify in person, or for those who may want to attend committee but do not wish to verbally testify.

Written-only testimony:

  • Testimony is to be electronically submitted to the Chairman’s Office by 3 p.m. Monday afternoon, the day before the scheduled hearing.
  • The witness slip is to be completed prior to the committee hearing and should also be submitted electronically to the Chairman’s Office.
  • Testimony and the witness slip can be submitted at the same time, and there is no need to send multiple emails.
  • Materials may be submitted to Matthew Taylor in Chairman Doug Green’s Office at (Matthew.Taylor@ohiohouse.gov.)

Ohio SLD: Opponents to rail safety bill to appear in Columbus on Oct. 22; support needed

State Legislative Director Stu Gardner said that a hearing for opponents of H.B. 186 to appear before the Ohio House Transportation and Public Safety Committee has been scheduled.

Opponents are scheduled to give testimony at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 22 in Ohio Statehouse Room 114 in Columbus.

The opponent hearing before the committee was delayed at carriers’ request so that the carriers could bring in representatives from Washington, D.C., to testify and try to stop the bill’s passage, Gardner reports.

“We need a group of our supporters to attend this hearing in order to show the committee members we believe in all phases of HB 186,” Gardner said. “Let’s fill that hearing room with our activism and presence.”

H.B. 186 covers the following safety issues:

  • Two-person freight train crews
  • Proper walkways in railroad yard safety legislation
  • Railroad yard lighting safety legislation
  • Blocked crossings

Members representing SMART Transportation Division as well as representatives from the BLET provided more than two hours of proponent testimony last month to show state House Transportation and Public Safety committee members why the railroad safety legislation is deserving of their support.

Gardner suggests that Ohio members either call the offices or set up in-person meetings with members of the committee who are listed below.

Chairman:
Doug Green HD 66 (Mount Orab)
Phone: (614) 644-6034
Home Address: 708 S. High St., Mt. Orab, OH 45154

Vice Chairman:
Riordan T. McClain HD 87 (Upper Sandusky)
Phone: (614) 644-6265
Home Address: 469 N. 5th St., Upper Sandusky, OH 43351

Ranking Member:
Michael Sheehy HD 46 (Oregon)
Phone: (614) 466-1418
Home Address: 1129 Schmidlin Rd., Oregon, OH 43616

Juanita Brent HD 12 (Cleveland)
Phone: (614) 466-1408
Home Address: 16804 Glendale Ave., Cleveland, OH 44128

James M. Hoops HD 81 (Napoleon)
Phone: (614) 466-3760
Home Address: 195 Old Creek Dr., Napoleon, OH 43545

Stephanie Howse HD 11 (Cleveland)
Phone: (614) 466-1414
Home Address: 1220 Spring Rd., Cleveland, OH 44109

Don Jones HD 95 (Freeport)
Phone: (614) 644-8728
Home Address: 34755 Jones Rd., Freeport, OH 43973

Jeff LaRe HD 77 (Violet Twp.)
Phone: (614) 466-8100

Michele Lepore-Hagan HD 58 (Youngstown)
Phone: (614) 466-9435
Home Address: 562 Madera Ave., Youngstown, OH 44504

Susan Manchester HD 84 (Lakeview)
Phone: (614) 466-6344
(419) 303-2670
Home Address: 29249 St. Rt. 385, Lakeview, OH 43331

Gayle Manning HD 55 (North Ridgeville)
Phone: (614) 644-5076
Home Address: 9436 Foxboro Dr., North Ridgeville, OH 44039

Jessica Miranda, HD 28 (Forest Park)
Phone: (614) 466-8120
(513) 266-3937
Home Address: 11511 Oxfordshire Ln., Cincinnati, OH 45240

Michael J. O’Brien HD 64 (Warren)
Phone: (614) 466-5358
(330) 727-1097
Home Address: 1849 Edgewood St. NE, Warren, OH 44483

Thomas Patton HD 7 (Strongsville)
Phone: (614) 466-4895
Home Address: 17157 Rabbit Run Dr., Strongsville, OH 44136

Reggie Stoltzfus HD 50 (Minerva)
Phone: (614) 466-9078
(330) 936-6001
Home Address: 13789 Telpahak St SE, Minerva, OH 44657

The bill is sponsored by Ohio Reps. Mike Sheehy, a retired rail worker and member of the SMART TD Alumni Association, and Brent Hillyer.

 


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Ohio rail safety bill scheduled for hearing; testimony needed

State Legislative Director Stu Gardner reports that proponent testimony has been scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019,  in House Hearing Room 114 in the Ohio Statehouse, 1 Capitol Square in Columbus, regarding H.B. 186, a comprehensive railroad safety bill under consideration in the state’s House of Representatives.

“This is the SMART TD and BLET members, friends and concerned citizens’ opportunity to let the House Transportation and Safety committee know and understand the reasons why HB 186 – a comprehensive railroad safety bill — is important to us and the communities that our trains pass through, and where those railroad yards are located throughout the state of Ohio,” Gardner said.

H.B. 186 covers the following safety issues:

  • Two-person freight train crews
  • Proper walkways in railroad yard safety legislation
  • Railroad yard lighting safety legislation
  • Blocked crossings

The bill is sponsored by Ohio Reps. Mike Sheehy, a retired rail worker and member of the SMART TD Alumni Association, and Brent Hillyer.

Proponent testimony must be provided to Matthew Taylor in Committee Chairman Doug Green’s office (Matthew.Taylor@ohiohouse.gov.)  with the deadline for electronic submission of both written and in-person testimony and witness slip being 3 p.m. Sept. 9, the Monday before the hearing. On the day of the hearing, witnesses have the option of presenting their testimony in person before the committee if they have submitted the testimony and required witness slip by the deadline.

Gardner said that he plans to be at the Statehouse at 9 a.m. the day of the hearing.

“My hope is we have a large turnout (even if you are not giving testimony) to demonstrate our solidarity on these important rail safety issues,” he said.

If the volume of testimony warrants, Gardner said that subsequent committee hearings could be scheduled for the legislation so that all witnesses are heard.

“Please advocate and give testimony in support of H.B. 186,” Gardner said. “Thank you for your support.”

Instructions for those wishing to testify before the committee:

Prior to committee:

  • The House Transportation and Public Safety Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday mornings at 11 a.m. in House Hearing Room 114 in the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.
    • The committee notice typically goes out on Friday afternoon. The notice will confirm that H.B. 186 is up for a hearing and when and where the committee will convene.
    • The Ohio SLB will work with the chairman’s office and our policy team to get as much of an advanced notice as possible
  • Testimony is to be electronically submitted to the chairman’s office by 3 p.m. Monday afternoon.
  • A witness slip (fillable PDF) is to be completed prior to the committee meeting and should also be submitted electronically to the chairman’s office.
  • Testimony and the witness slip can be submitted at the same time and there is no need to send multiple emails.
  • Materials may be submitted to Matthew Taylor in Chairman Doug Green’s Office at (Matthew.Taylor@ohiohouse.gov.)

Day of committee:

  • When the committee notice is distributed, SLD Gardner will make sure to relay the information and will draw attention to any changes that have been made to the committee’s location and start time.
  • Folks may arrive any time before the committee hearing begins.
  • There is no need to check in with staff so long as testimony was submitted properly.
  • Attendees may take a seat in the audience.
  • As committee begins, the chairman will announce the hearing of bills. As testimony begins on H.B. 186, the chairman will call each individual up by the name submitted on the witness slip.
  • After testimony has been given, the individual may remain in the committee room for the duration of the hearing.

Instructions for those wishing to submit written-only testimony:

  • Written-only testimony is for those who may not be able to attend the committee hearing to testify in person, or for those who may want to attend committee but do not wish to verbally testify.

Written-only testimony:

  • Testimony is to be electronically submitted to the Chairman’s Office by 3 p.m. Monday afternoon, the day before the scheduled hearing.
  • The witness slip is to be completed prior to the committee hearing and should also be submitted electronically to the Chairman’s Office.
  • Testimony and the witness slip can be submitted at the same time, and there is no need to send multiple emails.
  • Materials may be submitted to Matthew Taylor in Chairman Doug Green’s Office at (Matthew.Taylor@ohiohouse.gov.)