Chicago-area Democrat U.S. Representative Dan Lipinski introduced four bills last week that deal with issues such as blocked highway-rail grade crossings and train noise.
Lipinski is seeking to include the bills as part of the five-year surface transportation reauthorization bill that is expected to be introduced this spring. Lipinksi is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, which has held a number of hearings over the year on rail-related issues such as blocked crossings.
Separately, Lipinkski was also just defeated in the Democratic primary in Illinois by progressive challenger and businesswoman Marie Newman.
The bills are:
- H.R. 6223: The bill aims to reduce blocked crossings. Among the items it calls for are a federal 10-minute limit for a train to block a crossing, with some exceptions and the ability for the Secretary of Transportation to fine railroads that block crossings for more than 10 minutes and to delegate that enforcement power to Secretary-approved state and local rail inspectors and enforcement. It would also allow the Secretary of Transportation to establish escalating fines based on the length of time that a crossing is blocked and it would require railroads to change their operating practices, including train lengths, to reduce instances of "egregious or persistent" blocked crossings.
- H.R. 6224: This bill seeks to increase the number of rail-grade crossing separations nationwide. It calls for the establishment of a $1 billion/year competitive rail grade separation program through the U.S. Department of Transportation, and it would set aside 70% of funding for larger projects costing more than $100 million. The federal government would share 50% of the costs for large projects and 80% of the costs for others.
- H.R. 6225: The bill aims to increase the number of quiet zones around railroad tracks by making quiet zones an eligible project under the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure Safety Improvement program, or CRISI. Quiet zone projects would also be eligible for funding under the section 130 program and the Surface Transportation Block Grant program.
- H.R. 6226: This bill seeks to improve the operation of Chicago Union Station by transferring operational control from Amtrak to Metra, the local commuter line.
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