Senate Democrats

Reid: Congress Must Act To Improve Rail Safety

Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate regarding the Federal Rail Safety Improvement Act.  Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

“We now turn to bipartisan, bicameral legislation to achieve something we can all agree on – the improved safety of our nation’s railroads.  Through new technology, updated regulations and an expanded Federal agency that is up to challenge of policing the railroads, this bill will save lives. 

“To reach this goal, Senators from both sides of the aisle have worked tirelessly, putting aside partisanship and overcoming obstacles that would derail the needed safety and infrastructure improvements that we owe the American people.

“The tragic collision that occurred in Chatsworth, California, on September 12 reminded us all that it’s been entirely too long – almost 15 years – since Congress’s last reauthorization bill set the route of the Federal rail safety programs. 

“The Senate took its first steps at rectifying this situation by passing, by unanimous consent, Senator Lautenberg’s rail safety bill just before the August recess.  Like me, he believes we can’t wait another day to reauthorize and improve these life-saving programs and I am so glad that we can finally move to consider this good piece of legislation today.

“In addition to our rail safety programs, this legislation will also reauthorize Amtrak and improve the railroad’s safety, operations and infrastructure.  We last passed an Amtrak reauthorization bill over 10 years ago and our national railroad has been without guiding legislation since 2002. 

“With all the challenges facing the traveling public today – high gas prices, long delays at the airport and constant highway congestion – improving our nation’s intercity passenger rail system is an idea whose time has come.  Trains offer a fuel efficient and environmentally-sound way to quickly enhance our transportation system and this bill will improve both the existing Amtrak system and help us develop new rail service in corridors across the country like in Nevada, where a planned high-speed rail corridor would connect Las Vegas to Southern California. 

“Despite this progress, some Senators then took it upon themselves to prevent the House and Senate from going to conference on this bill in attempt to kill this legislation.  Thankfully, the sponsors of this bill didn’t give up when faced with these challenges.  Senators Lautenberg and Hutchison instead began working with the House to put together the combined rail safety and Amtrak legislation and today we see the fruit of their labor.  

“This package was been approved by the House by voice vote with near unanimous support last Wednesday and is now ready to be sent to the President for his signature once the Senate passes it, which I hope we do. 

“It contains important new safety requirements for our railroads, such as the implementation of positive train control systems, known as ‘PTC’ systems.  These systems can prevent train collisions like the terrible crash in California and this bill ensures that the railroad industry adopts this vital technology wherever passenger trains and hazardous cargo shipments travel. 

“This legislation is supported by the railroads and their workers and was developed working closely with the Administration.  Democrats and Republicans in both the Senate and the House of Representatives have made a strong statement that we need to move our Federal rail safety programs and our passenger rail system into the 21st century.  I hope that we can move forward on this quickly and get it to the President for his signature.”