Federal Railroad Safety Program and Reauthorization Issues Page: 4 of 18
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MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
The 106th Congress considered several bills intended to improve railroad safety. On
March 24, 1999, Senator Lott and three co-sponsors introduced S. 712, which would have
allowed postal patrons to contribute funds to promote highway-rail grade crossing safety
through the purchase of specially-issued U.S. postage stamps. On July 8, 1999, S. 712 was
reported to the Senate and placed on its legislative calendar. On May 6, 1999, Senators
Johnson and Daschle introduced S. 983 which would have required the Secretary of
Transportation to issue regulations to provide for improvements in the conspicuity (or
visibility) of rail cars. On July 1, 1999, Representative Oberstar introduced H.R. 2450,
which included provisions to reduce employee fatigue, increase protection of railroad
employees, and strengthen grade crossing safety. H.R. 2666, introduced by Representatives
Shows and Lampson on July 20, 1999, dealt with similar issues. H.R. 3091, introduced by
Representative LaTourette on October 18, 1999, also dealt with fatigue and off duty
concerns. S. 1144, as reported to the Senate on January 7, 2000, would have required the
Secretary to revise traffic signs at grade crossings. The Clinton Administration submitted
a revised railroad safety reauthorization bill that was introduced by request as H.R. 2683
and S. 1496. The new proposal included several initiatives that were not in the Clinton
Administration's previous bill that was submitted during the 105th Congress, and many
provisions that are either similar or identical to those previously submitted to the 105th
Congress. P. L. 106-346 appropriated $101.7 million for FRA's FY2001 railroad safety
program and related expenses. (See "Appropriations for FY2001: Department of
Transportation and Related Agencies," CRS Report RL30508.) On July 18, 2000, the
Subcommittee on Ground Transportation of the House Committee on Transportation and
Infrastructure held a hearing on FRA's rulemaking proceeding regarding a provision of the
Swift Rail Development Act (P.L. 103-440) requiring audible warnings at public
highway-rail grade crossings (49 U.S.C. 20153) under certain conditions.
BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS
The FRA of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is the primary federal agency
that promotes and regulates railroad safety. Every few years, the Congress amends or
reauthorizes the federal railroad safety law that governs FRA's program. The last railroad
safety statute (P.L. 103-440) was enacted in 1994 and funding authority for that program
expired at the end of FY1998. FRA's safety programs continue using the authorities of
existing laws and funds appropriated annually.
The primary objective of federal law pertaining to railroad safety is to promote the safety
of railroad employees, passengers, and the public. FRA exercises jurisdiction over all aspects
of railroad safety as provided for in the Rail Safety Act of 1970 (P.L. 91-458). More recent
safety laws enacted during the last 25 years, such as P.L. 96-423, P.L. 100-342, P.L. 102-
365, and P.L. 103-440, have been designed to accomplish a variety of more specific
objectives. For example, those statutes provided specific authorities to FRA that are intended
to reduce drug and alcohol problems in the railroad industry, reduce the frequency of
highway-rail grade crossing incidents, and strengthen the civil penalty process and increase
penalty amounts authorized to be imposed on those individuals and companies that violate
federal railroad safety regulations.
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Federal Railroad Safety Program and Reauthorization Issues, report, December 11, 2000; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc808385/m1/4/: accessed January 22, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.