Cleveland aimed to encourage increased rail safety in response to the February disaster of the East Palestine train derailment, particularly because the train that derailed also passed through the city.
Cleveland City Council Member Jenny Spencer sponsored a railroad safety resolution on Monday urging Congress to pass U.S. Senate Bill (SB) 576, the Federal Rail Safety Act of 2023, introduced in Congress by U.S. Senators JD Vance (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
The Rail Safety Act of 2023 demands procedural and equipment changes, increasing fines for violations, and offering funding to incentivize improvements.
“Senator Vance and Senator Sherrod Brown have co-sponsored this Federal Rail Safety Act of 2023. It’s a big deal, and I feel like all Ohioans need to get behind them and help get that bill across the finish line,” Spencer said.
The resolution also urges the Ohio General Assembly to enact legislation to protect the residents of Cleveland from the risks posed by potential train derailments on the tracks that run through the city.
According to Spencer, certain train operators, including Norfolk Southern railway, operate on Cleveland’s train tracks 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In the past 40 days, two Norfolk Southern train derailments and one accident have occurred in the Ohio cities of East Palestine, Springfield, and Cleveland, resulting in the death of a Norfolk Southern train conductor, surrounding communities being forced to evacuate their homes and the release of hazardous materials into the air and groundwater.
The resolution also notes a resolution the Cleveland City Council passed in June 2020 condemns Norfolk-Southern for changing the route of daily trains transporting ethanol and crude oil through Cleveland without informing the public.
The council urged Norfolk-Southern to divert all hazardous materials not starting in or ending in Cleveland onto less populated routes and to stop rerouting them into Cleveland.
The resolution states that Ohio needs further regulation of train operators relating to the tracks, routes, rail cars, employees, and hazardous materials protocols to provide the citizens throughout the state with enhanced protection from injury and damage due to any future train derailments.
“[It’s,] ‘Who is keeping us safe? It’s, ‘Who are the folks at the federal level who regulate this industry and are ultimately responsible for the safe transport of materials through our communities?” Spencer said.
This resolution comes a week before Cleveland City Council’s special rail safety and emergency preparedness hearing on March 21st.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Sherrod Brown” by Sherrod Brown.