May. 18, 2023

HARRISBURG – Working to avert a hazardous ecological and economic manmade disaster as seen with the train derailment in neighboring Ohio, Rep. Lou Schmitt (R-Altoona) has introduced legislation to increase safety on trains operating in Pennsylvania. 

“Every single day, multiple trains with hazardous materials onboard move through the heart of the city of Altoona and other cities, towns and townships across Pennsylvania. As we have so tragically seen recently, there is a glaring need for stricter freight rail safety standards,” Schmitt said. “While it is true the rail industry is primarily regulated at the federal level, I feel compelled to address the issue of freight rail safety by introducing legislation that requires freight trains to be operated by two people in the cab of the locomotive.”

Schmitt’s legislation, House Bill 1126, would also grant authority to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to levy civil penalties against rail companies that do not comply with the two-person requirement. 

In addition, Schmitt introduced House Bill 1127 to limit the length of trains to 8,500 feet. The length of trains has greatly increased over the years with the average length being well over a mile, leading to numerous safety issues. There are also concerns that longer trains lead to traffic congestion and delayed response by emergency crews waiting at rail crossings.

The impacts of the Ohio derailment just miles from the Pennsylvania border continue to negatively affect residents of both states. Remediations efforts to clean up the mess are ongoing and there are valid concerns from Texas and Michigan residents over chemical waste recovered from train cars being disposed of in those states. 

“Clearly this incident is not just having a negative impact on where the derailment occurred. This is now affecting residents of at least three additional states,” said Schmitt. “If the derailment itself wasn’t enough to warrant additional safety measures, surely its ripple effect should. I urge my colleagues to take a preventative approach to rail safety, so we hopefully won’t have to react to a derailment in Pennsylvania.”

The bills now go to the House Consumer Protection, Technology and Utilities Committee for consideration. 

Representative Lou Schmitt
79th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Greg Gross
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