Senate Passes Comprehensive Rail Safety Legislation in Light of Recent National Train Disasters

The New York State Senate passed legislation to improve rail safety, minimize the risks of derailments, and enhance the maintenance and safety procedures of freight trains traveling within the state. The package of legislation specifically requires the state Department of Transportation to issue rules for the installation and operation of heat safety gauges and positive train control systems on all freight rail trains operating in the state. New safety measures will limit the length of trains and require at minimum two operators on all freight trains. The legislation bolsters industry oversight by requiring comprehensive inspections, quarterly reporting, and follow-up inspections for deficiencies or failures. It also creates a central registry for reports, audits, plans, and public inspections of freight rail, and establishes the Freight Rail Safety Task Force. To ensure greater security of the state’s freight rail infrastructure, the legislation authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to review rail yard security measures. It requires railroad corporations to inform relevant state and federal agencies about transporting hazardous materials prior to traveling within the state. The legislation builds on the Senate’s 2023-24 State Budget investment of $1.75 million to increase the number of railroad inspectors in New York, according to the Senate Democratic Majority.

“Railroads are a vital component of our infrastructure and play a crucial role in facilitating the transportation of essential goods for our economy. The Senate Democratic Majority is taking significant steps by enacting common-sense legislation to enhance rail safety and safeguard communities near rail tracks, which often bear the brunt of rail disasters," said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “We must not wait for a train derailment like Norfolk Southern’s in East Palestine to occur before we take action to help prevent them from happening in New York. I thank Senate Transportation Committee Chairman, Senator Tim Kennedy, and all the bill sponsors for introducing legislation to help make our railroads safer.”

Chair of the Transportation Committee, Senator Tim Kennedy said, “Our nation relies on an efficient and well-run transportation network to maintain our supply chains and keep costs in check, but it cannot come at the expense of the health and safety of New Yorkers. As we witnessed devastation unfold in East Palestine, Ohio, we took a hard look at New York's existing standards of operation and identified real opportunities for reform. This package of legislation takes significant steps to strengthen rail safety here in New York State, and I thank Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins for proactively taking action in order to prevent future disasters.”

Read the Senate Majority Press Release.

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