Some Republicans Reportedly Hesitant About Rail Safety Bill

Photo by Harold Mendoza on Unsplash

( – A bipartisan effort for greater railroad safety has led to a roadblock due to top Senate Republicans who do not yet support the legislative efforts following the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment.

Ohio lawmakers J.D. Vance (R) and Sherrod Brown (D) recently unveiled their potential rail safety plan, which has already gained support from the White House and many Democrats. However, some Republicans do not appear to be on board with the plan yet, with some of them concerned about the possibility of unintended consequences so soon after the disaster.

In an interview with The Hill, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said that he would look at the proposal, but before any heavy regulations were passed they needed to be thoroughly considered. He added that understanding what the problem actually is can also be very important in creating a solution that actually fixes it.

The Railway Safety Act has the potential bolster safety rules for trains that transport hazardous materials. This will include more frequent rail car inspections, more financial penalties for safety infractions, and $27 million spent on examining other changes that might be necessary. Sensors for detecting overheated wheel bearings would also need to be used more frequently. In the Ohio disaster, the sensors caused the accident because they didn’t catch the issue in time, according to a recent National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report.

Republicans, however, are concerned that specific new rules are left to the Department of Transportation. Some lawmakers, such as Thune, are hesitant about letting more power given to the DoT. In addition, reports suggest that Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw seemed to stop short of supporting the legislation while testifying at a Senate hearing on March 9.

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