U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) recently met with Tim Weisner, the mayor of Aurora, Illinois, and local stakeholders late last week to discuss efforts to improve rail tank-car safety.
Concerns have arisen from an increase in trains being used to transport volatile crude oil and ethanol throughout the U.S., with local jurisdictions concerned about derailments and toxic spills. To address these concerns, Durbin and Foster detailed their legislative efforts in Congress to improve U.S. railroad safety.
Tank-car safety measures are included in the recently passed long-term transportation bill -- the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act -- and the 2016 omnibus spending bill. The FAST Act includes several measures to improve tank-car safety, including mandated upgrades on tank cars, mandates for comprehensive oil-spill response plans and closure of a loophole that lets rail companies use older tank cars.
“Just five years ago, very little crude oil was hauled by the nation’s railroads. Today, more than 1.1 million barrels per day – with more expected – move by rail, largely originating in the Midwest,” Durbin said. “With more communities involved, we need to make sure these materials are transported in the safest possible way. That’s why I co-sponsored two bills in the Senate that would help us move faster to a safer generation of tank cars and helped lead efforts to finally pass a bipartisan long-term transportation bill that was signed into law in December.”
“It is critical that we ensure the safety of families in the cities of Illinois that were built around railway hubs, and I commend Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner for his long standing dedication to railway safety,” Foster said. “The long-term transportation bill we passed last year is an example of Congress finally acting as it should. Not only will it allow our local governments the certainty to make much-needed investments in infrastructure, but it is also taking important steps to improve rail safety. However, these steps are just the beginning. With America’s production of energy and chemicals, we must continue to be vigilant and ensure that we are doing everything we can to transport these items safely. I will continue to be a voice in Washington advocating for fact-based solutions that keep our communities safe and our economy running.”