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Ohio senators introduce new train safety legislation


Ohio's U.S. Senators have introduced a bill to make frieght trains safer, in the wake of the toxic train derailment in East Palestine. Republican J.D. Vance and Democrat Sherrod Brown have introduced the Railway Safety Act of 2023.

The bill creates new safety requirements for all trains carrying hazardous materials, including sensors every ten miles of track to prevent wheel bearing failures. According to the preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board, wheel bearing failure caused the East Palestine derailment.

There's a permanent requirement for railroads to operate with at least two-person crews, and the bill would require railroads to train local first responders on how to handle a derailment with potentially toxic chemicals. The bill would increase safety violation penalties for rail companies from 225-thousand dollars to one-percent of annual operating expenses. Vance says the bill puts more teeth in enforcement

"When these train companies cause these problems, it's really little more than a slap on the wrist, so we would actually increase the penalties. Make it so that if a train company causes what happened in East Palestine, they actually suffer some real consequences."

Federal Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg applauds the proposed bill.

"Making sure that we have more teeth, more standards, and more enforceability when it comes to freight railroad safety. It is a very, very good development that there is now bipartisan legislation emerging in the Senate, work being down in the House as well, on some of the things that I've been calling for."

All trains carrying hazardous materials, including those that don't fall under existing regulations for high-hazard flammable loads, would face new requirements under the bill.

A native of Chicago, naturalized citizen of Cincinnati and resident of Columbus, Alison attended Earlham College and the Ohio State University. She has equal passion for Midwest history, hockey and Slavic poetry.