FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 14, 2006
With Two Freight Derailments In Two Days, Schumer Announces He Will Reintroduce Comprehensive Rail Safety Bill; Calls For Nationwide Overhaul Of Degrading Lines
Senator Finds Federal Government Still Asleep at the Switch When It Comes to Freight Train Safety – Will Renew His Push in the 110th Congress
New York’s Freight Rail Infrastructure is Old and Deteriorating – Legislation Calls for Nationwide Structural Review and Creates New Line of Funding for Immediate Improvements
Senator Proposes Doubling Number of Inspectors to Root out
US Senator Charles E. Schumer today warned that two dangerous freight derailments in Western New York this week could be just the tip of the iceberg if the federal government doesn’t move quickly to improve freight rail infrastructure in Buffalo and across the country. Since January 2005, there have been at least 20 recorded derailments in Erie County alone. In the wake of these accidents, Schumer announced he will reintroduce in the new congress his bi-partisan Rail Crossing and Hazardous Materials Transport Act, comprehensive rail safety and security legislation, which would direct millions of dollars in new funding to improve rail infrastructure.
“Western New York is one of the cross-roads of freight rail in the United States and the federal government is quite literally falling asleep at the switch when it comes to protecting our communities from deadly train derailments,” Schumer said. “These accidents right here in Erie County must be a wake-up call to crack down on negligent railroad companies and improve their infrastructure. What we need is a real plan to protect our communities and tougher penalties for railroad companies who disregard our safety.”
Schumer said that inadequate safety precautions put hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers living near rail lines at risk. According to Federal Railroad Administration statistics, there have been 63 rail accidents, 30 derailments, 14 casualties and 383 total injuries so far this year.
On Monday, a Canadian Pacific Railway freight train derailed near the Norfolk-Southern Yard. Three of the 55 cars jumped the tracks and two flipped over. Though none of the cars contained hazardous materials, had there been dangerous chemicals on board, Schumer said the accident could have been a full blown disaster.
This accident came on the heels of Sunday’s accident in Cheektowaga when a boxcar was sent flying on to Union Road after the train derailed. This is the second accident just this fall on Union Road.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, there have been at least 20 individual railroad derailments in Erie County since January 2005. Schumer said that current rail safety measures and the prevalence of manual switches along rail lines provide inadequate protection for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers living near the state’s 3,695 miles of freight rail tracks. From January to September of this year, there were three more accidents in New York State caused by problems with the infrastructure than in the same period in 2005, an increase of 17.6%. According to the National Transportation Atlas Database, more than 2.02 million tons of chemicals are transported on New York’s rail networks every year.
To protect New Yorkers from a potential railroad disaster, Schumer today announced that he is going to reintroduce his bipartisan comprehensive railroad legislation that he wrote after the deadly Graniteville, South Carolina rail disaster last year. Schumer’s legislation, the Rail Crossing and Hazardous Materials Transport Act, co-sponsored by Senator Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC) sets tougher minimum and maximum fines for fatal accidents and establishes new requirements for investigations, inspections and the use of new safety technology. The legislation aims to crack down on negligent railroad companies and require the broader use of modern technology to protect the public from more fatal crossing and hazardous materials accidents.
Schumer’s legislation would also create a new infrastructure grant program that would authorize $50 million in federal funding for railroad and localities to complete vital infrastructure improvements.