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Lawmakers introduce legislation in response to Ohio train derailment

Lawmakers introduce legislation in response to Ohio train derailment
Posted at 4:03 PM, Mar 30, 2023

Members of Ohio’s House delegation introduced rail safety legislation Thursday in response to last month’s train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. 

The announcement of the RAIL Act also came as some residents of Raymond, Minnesota, were forced to evacuate after a train carrying ethanol derailed early Thursday morning.

Ohio Sens. Sherrod Brown and J.D. Vance introduced similar legislation in the Senate earlier this month. Both bills would increase fines on railroads for violating safety regulations. The bills would also increase safety inspections on railroads. 

The bill has support from 11 of Ohio’s 15 House members, including six of 10 Republicans and all five Democrats.

“While trains carry many of the raw materials and goods that make modern life possible, locomotive derailments and accidents are far too common, putting our communities at risk,” said Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio. 

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Johnson represents eastern Ohio, including East Palestine. 

The bill was also co-sponsored by Democrat Emilia Sykes. 

“Public safety transcends politics and district boundaries,” Sykes said. “Rail safety is not a partisan issue; it’s a human issue.”

Sykes noted she is the only member of Ohio’s delegation on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. 

“The RAIL Act is a bipartisan common-sense legislation that implements effective measures to protect our communities, increase accountability from railroad corporations so no American has to worry about the threat of a toxic derailment in their backyard," Sykes said.

Both the House and Senate’s versions would also require trains carrying hazardous materials to be scanned by hotbox detectors every 10 miles. They would also mandate wayside detectors.

An interim report by the NTSB indicated that a hotbox detector found the train’s bearing temperature was 253 degrees above the ambient temperature. Anything above 200 degrees is considered critical.