Ohio Legislature Passes Rail Safety Program

The Ohio General Assembly had adopted a rail safety program and sent it to Gov. Mike DeWine for consideration.

The measure was part of a $13.5 billion transportation funding bill.

It remains to be seen if the rules will be enforced because there is a question about whether federal law and regulatory agencies have precedent over state laws and regulatory agencies when it comes to regulating railroad operations.

The rail safety measure would require two-person crews for freights trains and require railroad employees who receive information from wayside defect detectors about potentially unsafe conditions to relay that information to the crew operating the train.

Defect detectors under the law would be required to be spaced 10 to 15 miles apart.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency are being directed to submit reports to the legislature about the transportation  of hazardous materials.

PUCO also was directed to review different types of defect detectors and video surveillance systems and report its findings to lawmakers.

The Ohio Railroad Association argued during debate on the bill that federal law supersedes state law on many rail safety matters.

For example, the Federal Railroad Administration allows wayside defect detectors to be spaced up to 25 miles apart.

The transportation bill contains funding for the next two years of primarily bridge and highway projects.

Under the bill, registration fees for hybrid vehicles will be cut from $200 to $150.

The bill also raises the threshold of how much a local government can spend on projects infrastructure projects by its own public workforce before it must bid them out to private contractors.

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