Inspections Rail

Appropriations bill would boost funding for rail safety inspections

Washington – A new appropriations bill could increase funding for the Federal Railroad Administration, allowing the agency to hire 45 new rail safety inspectors and increase the amount of rail it inspects nationwide.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) announced on Jan. 14 that the bill would increase FRA’s safety and operations budget by $15 million to about $185 million for fiscal year 2014. The senators advocated the boost after the Dec. 1 Metro-North Railroad derailment that killed four people and injured dozens of passengers in New York City. FRA announced later that month that current funding levels allow the agency to inspect only about 1 percent of the nation’s rails each year and limit the number of safety audits on at-risk railroads.

At press time, the bill – which was agreed upon Jan. 14 by the Senate and House appropriations committees and would fund the federal government through Oct. 1 – was expected to be considered by both full chambers this week.

UPDATE: The full House passed the bill Jan. 15. It now awaits a vote in the Senate.