Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell from Washington state led an executive session on the proposed Railway Safety Act of 2023 on Wednesday. The act requires the industry to implement train malfunction detection technology in the wake of high profile train derailments in 2023.
Notably, in February, a Northfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, eventually causing hazardous chemicals to emanate throughout the region after a controlled burn of vinyl chloride off derailed cars. In March, a BNSF train jumped tracks near Fidalgo Island, Washington, spilling more than 3,000 gallons of diesel. Washington state alone had 35 train derailments last year.
The proposed legislation expands the types of hazardous materials that would trigger increased safety regulations like speed restrictions. It would also require stronger emergency response plans to prepare for railroad disasters, as well as better braking and route risk analysis.
While there is bipartisan support for passing stronger railroad rules, right now an agreement that could become law has not been hammered out.
“I think this bill as written, it’s going to pass this committee, but I don’t believe as written it’s going to get 60 votes in the Senate,” Republican Senator Ted Cruz from Texas told KOMO.