Johnson introduces RAIL Act

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 24, 2023

Bipartisan bill looks to improve train safety

U.S. Reps. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, and Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Ohio, introduced the bipartisan Reducing Accidents in Locomotives (RAIL) Act. 

“The East Palestine train derailment has upended the lives of those living in East Palestine and the surrounding region. It is imperative that Congress swiftly works to strengthen our nation’s railway safety standards,” Johnson, who represents the district covering East Palestine, said. “The bipartisan RAIL Act would bring forth effective and responsible changes to the way the rail industry operates to help prevent railway accidents and keep communities across America safe. I look forward to working with Rep. Sykes to get this important legislation across the finish line.” 

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Johnson’s office said the RAIL Act would improve railway safety and operations by: 

• Directing the Federal Rail Administration (FRA), in conjunction with the findings of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation, to recommend changes to how our nation’s rail system operates – from train length, weight to speed, and track standards.

• Increasing funding for Hazardous Materials Training for first responders

• Increasing maximum penalties for violations of rail safety regulations

• Increasing inspections on all trains, including those carrying hazardous materials

• Auditing federal rail inspection programs.

Ohio, which has one of the country’s largest railroad networks, ranks fourth in the nation for serious train accident accidents and hazardous materials spills. From 2019 through November 2022, 281 train accidents occurred within the state.  

U.S. Sen. JD Vance, R-Ohio, who, along with the state’s Democratic U.S. senator, Sherrod Brown, is sponsoring similar bipartisan legislation in the Senate, responded to Johnson’s bill.

“This is a great bill,” Vance said. “I’m very glad to see that Congressman Johnson has such a strong, bipartisan group from the Ohio delegation behind it. This is a huge development for improving railway safety in this country. In the coming weeks, my top priority will be doing my part to get the Railway Safety Act through the Senate.”

11 members of the Ohio House delegation are co-sponsors of the RAIL Act, including six Republicans and five Democrats.

Johnson represents Ohio’s 6th congressional district, which, due to redistricting and until January 2023, included Lawrence County.