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Congressman Sires Introduces Legislation Requiring Transparency in Railroad and Rail Transit Safety

Jan 17, 2019
Press Release

(Washington, D.C.) – This week, Representative Albio Sires (D-NJ) introduced legislation to compel federal agencies to inform Members of Congress when a railroad or rail transit agency in their district is being investigated for safety violations.

The bill, H.R. 543, requires the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to provide Congress with notice of when a comprehensive safety assessment is being conducted on an intercity or commuter rail transit agency that serves their district. This notice must come within 10 days of the FRA initiating a safety assessment and it must be sent to Members of Congress, Senators, and the relevant congressional committees. Once the safety assessment is completed, FRA has 90 days to inform those parties of the assessment’s findings, including specific defects and any recommendations to address them. An identical version of this bill was approved by the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and was passed by the House of Representatives without objection in the 115th Congress.

“I am pleased to introduce this bill to ensure that our constituents know when the railroad services they rely on are under audit for safety reasons,” said Rep. Sires. “Members of Congress and Senators must know when and why these safety assessments are underway so that we may inform our constituents and work on ways to provide assistance.”

In the wake of the fatal New Jersey Transit accident in Hoboken which killed a young mother and injured 110 passengers and crewmembers, it was made public that the FRA had been conducting a “deep audit” on NJ Transit prompted by an increase in safety violations. At the time, this safety review was not known to relevant Members of Congress or to the public who relied on NJ Transit to take them to work and bring them home safely every day.

“My constituents and I never want to be caught off-guard by an unsafe rail transit agency – particularly when the federal government has been investigating it. This bill has previously been approved by the House and I look forward to making the case to my colleagues in the 116th Congress that we are all better served by a transparent and responsive rail safety oversight.”