The latest bill to hit the house stage is meant to improve freight rail connectivity with the hopes of improving supply chain management.
Transportation lawmakers are working tirelessly amid the fast approaching congressional recess in August.
The Reliable Rail Service Act, introduced by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), would update the operations at the Surface Transportation Board. The sponsors argued this would promote reliability across the freight rail network.
“Ensuring our agriculture, energy, and manufacturing businesses have reliable rail service will be crucial in leveling the playing field for Wisconsin businesses who depend on rail service and helping cut costs for working families,” Baldwin said on June 28.
“I frequently hear from Kansans that the service of Class 1 [freight] railroads is not living up to the expectations,” added Marshall. “These service failures hurt our shippers who use the rail to deliver their products to key export facilities.”
The goal of the bill is to, “provide transparency for all stakeholders while improving [Surface Transportation Board’s] oversight to help address our nation’s freight railroad supply chain.”
Commerce Committee Chairwoman Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has been asking colleagues to support the bipartisan Railway Safety Act, specifically calling to attention the potential safety benefits as she cited data and an interactive map produced by the National League of Cities regarding train derailments.
“Communities nationwide are subjected to derailments every day, and it’s only a matter of time before the next disaster like East Palestine [Ohio] happens,” Cantwell said in June. “This new map by the National League of Cities shows exactly why it is time for the Senate to get on board and pass the bipartisan Railway Safety Act.”
The house committee passed the bill in May with a 16-11 vote. Democratic leaders have not yet scheduled a Senate hearing for the bill.
“We built a broad, bipartisan coalition that agree on these common-sense safety measures that will finally hold big railroad companies like Norfolk Southern accountable,” said Brown.
The bill promotes safe transport of freight along rail lines by targeting guidance at the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
The bill would also allow certain defect-detection technology and equip state agencies with additional information about the hazardous materials transported by rail, further improving rail safety.
“The Biden administration’s big spending, anti-energy agenda led to sky-high inflation and exacerbated a critical supply chain crisis,” Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) said after approving the bills in May. “The committee took action to strengthen our supply chain in numerous ways by removing regulatory barriers, improving supply chain efficiency and promoting smarter infrastructure investment.”
“Critical supply chains are significantly more fluid and resilient than they were when the president took office,” according to a report from the White House issued in June. “Today, we see increased access to transportation and warehousing capacity and equipment, solid throughput at the ports, improved delivery times, greater ocean shipping reliability, and steady declines in transportation costs.”