News & Reviews News Wire Pennsylvania House passes rail regulation bill

Pennsylvania House passes rail regulation bill

By Trains Staff | June 6, 2023

| Last updated on February 4, 2024

Legislation includes limit on train length, crew-size requirement

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An eastbound Norfolk Southern coal train meets a westbound merchandise train at Cassandra, Pa., in April 2022. Pennyslvania’s House of Representatives has passed wide-ranging rail regulation legislation. Bill Stephens

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives on Monday passed a wide-ranging bill on rail regulations at the state level, sending the measure on to the state Senate for consideration.

HB 1028 passed by a 141-62 vote, with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporting 39 Republicans joined all 102 Democrats in voting for the bill. The legislation was introduced in the wake of the East Palestine, Ohio, derailment and toxic-chemical release.

“Extraordinary events bring extraordinary action,” said state Rep. Robert Matzie (D-Beaver), the bill’s sponsor, according to the Post-Gazette. “How many East Palestines should we accept?”

The legislation limits train lengths in the state to 8,500 feet; requires two-person crews for Class I railroads; prohibits delaying an emergency vehicle at a grade crossing for more than 5 minutes; and sets rules regarding wayside detectors. It also requires a study of regulations regarding the transport of hazardous materials and creation of a system to report transport of such materials within the state.

Opponents of the bill attempted to remove the train-length provision, with Rep. Jim Struzzi (R-Indiana, Pa.) telling the Post-Gazette he believes that sort of regulation should be left to the federal government.

Should the measure become law, it would likely be challenged as interfering with interstate commerce, which is regulated at the federal level.

4 thoughts on “Pennsylvania House passes rail regulation bill

  1. It would be interesting to see if an 911 dispatcher in a small town could even get word to a train crew their train was blocking an emergency vehicle at a crossing. And if they do and the crew is stopped at a red signal or stopped in emergency what are they supposed to do. I have seen crews cut trains at a private driveway and public crossings when they knew they they would be stuck for a while but I am sure it took more than five minutes.

  2. I agree this must be be considered at the federal level. State law can only apply to intra state commerce including trains. Since almost all trains pass through more than one state the surface transportation board is the place to revise any needed regulation. Single state regulations trying to apply to interstate commerce are doomed to fail upon court challenges by the railroads. This has been proven several times single states tried to implement overly restrictive rules on interstate railroads.

  3. This and measures considered in other states should send a message to congress that the interstate commerce laws need to be updated, the states should have more autonomy to regulate the railroads to some extent in their states,

    1. Being in interstate commerce, railroad regulation needs to be uniform across the 48 contigous states. Otherwise, you’ll have chaos.

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