Ohio senators work together to introduce train safety legislation post East Palestine

A view of the scene Friday, Feb. 24, 2023, as the cleanup continues at the site of of a Norfolk...
A view of the scene Friday, Feb. 24, 2023, as the cleanup continues at the site of of a Norfolk Southern freight train derailment that happened on Feb. 3 in East Palestine, Ohio. (AP Photo/Matt Freed)(Matt Freed | AP)
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 12:33 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Ohio Senators JD Vance (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) are partnering with other lawmakers Wednesday to introduce the The Railway Safety Act of 2023.

It’s been nearly four weeks since a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio dumping extremely dangerous vinyl chloride creating an environmental disaster.

The derailment exposed gaps in safety regulations and has turned into a political finger pointing event, as to whose to blame for letting large railroads dictate regulation.

“It shouldn’t take a massive railroad disaster for elected officials to put partisanship aside and work together for the people we serve – not corporations like Norfolk Southern,” said Sen. Brown.

“Through this legislation, Congress has a real opportunity to ensure that what happened in East Palestine will never happen again. We owe every American the peace of mind that their community is protected from a catastrophe of this kind,” said Sen. Vance.

One of the changes would mandate that railroads install hotbox detectors every ten miles.

In the case of the East Palestine, derailment hotbox detectors recoded a temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit at mile post 80 on the axil of the car that started the derailment, then 103 degrees Fahrenheit at mile post 70.

The next detector was 20 miles further down the track and it recorded a temp of 253 degrees Fahrenheit, which was 53 degrees Fahrenheit above Norfolk Southern’s threshold for stopping train immediately.

Would a hotbox detector at mile post 60 mattered? Would it have been just above 200 degrees Fahrenheit requiring the stop?

The real question is would the axil have failed at 200 degrees Fahrenheit like it did at 253 degrees Fahrenheit.

Here are the list of possible changes being introduced in the legislation:

  • Enhance safety procedures for trains carrying hazardous materials by: Including new safety requirements and procedures for trains carrying hazardous materials like vinyl chloride Requiring rail carriers to provide advance notification and information to state emergency response officials about what they are transporting Creating new requirements to prevent blocked railroad crossings Mitigating derailment risk with rules for train size and weight
  • Reduce the risk of wheel bearing failures by: Establishing requirements for wayside defect detectors Requiring trains carrying hazardous materials to be scanned by hotbox detectors every 10 miles Strengthening inspection requirements for rail cars of trains carrying hazardous materials
  • Require well-trained, two-person crews aboard every train
  • Force rail carriers to face heightened fines for wrongdoing by: Substantially increasing the maximum fines USDOT can issue for safety violations
  • Support communities impacted by rail disasters by: Expanding HAZMAT training grants for local law enforcement and first responders through increased registration fees paid by Class I railroads
  • Invest in future safety improvements by: Providing $22,000,000 to the Federal Railroad Administration for research and development grants regarding wayside defect detectors and other rail priorities Providing $5,000,000 to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for expenses related to developing stronger tank car safety features