By a 19-2 vote, the Pennsylvania House Consumer Protection, Technologies and Utilities Committee advanced its comprehensive rail safety bill, H.B. 1028, out of committee May 3.
“This is a starting point,” said Republican Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Marshall (District 14) about the legislation. “This is an all-in approach.”
Democratic Committee Chairman Rep. Robert F. Matzie (District 16) was the primary sponsor of the legislation introduced April 25 that covers train length, two-person crews and wayside detectors.
““This is a unique situation relative to the severity of what happened in East Palestine, Ohio,” Matzie said before the bill’s passage through the committee. “We believe that rail safety does give us the purview to act. We believe time is of the essence. We don’t need another tragedy.”
- Fines carriers $10,000 for blocking rail crossings for more than five minutes.
- Limits train lengths to 8,500 feet.
- Permits rail labor representatives to have an active, participatory role while the state investigates rail safety matters.
- Requires a two-person crew aboard freight trains and fines carriers who violate the provision.
- Authorizes the state to inspect to ensure the functionality of wayside detectors in the state.
- Authorizes a state study of hazmat/waste transport.
- Create a reporting system when carriers operating trains carrying hazmat/waste report these to the state.
SMART Transportation Division Pennsylvania State Legislative Director Paul Pokrowka has been working for years to advocate for rail safety and to get similar legislation across the finish line.
“The incident February just across the border from our state in East Palestine brought attention nationwide to the importance of railroad safety,” he said. “Legislators in Pennsylvania have taken notice and have decided to do something about it. We appreciate their support and look to advance this legislation out of committee and into the full House and beyond — we thank Rep. Matzie and his staff very much for their help in advocating for H.B. 1028.”
Reps. Natalie Mihalek and Ryan Warner, both in the committee’s nine-member Republican minority, were the two votes against the bill’s advancement.
Neighboring Ohio had rail-safety legislation governing wayside detectors and crew size signed into law in late March.
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