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Lautenberg Legislation To Improve Rail Service And Safety Becomes Law
New Laws Increase Funding for Amtrak, Improve Rail Safety Standards, Allow N.J. to Regulate Waste Sites along Rail Lines
Lautenberg Press Office 202.224.3224
Thursday, October 16,
NEWARK, N.J. – Today, legislation authored by U.S. Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) to improve intercity passenger rail in New Jersey and across the nation as well as the safety of our railroads was signed by President Bush into law.
Sen. Lautenberg’s bills, the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 and the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, will provide increased funding for Amtrak over the next five years, require new safety controls on trains that help reduce crashes, modernize outdated laws governing rail employee work hours, and allow states to regulate solid waste processing facilities along rail lines.
“This is a victory for New Jersey travelers, businesses, and communities. People are tired of sitting in traffic, paying high prices at the pump and waiting in long lines at airports,” said Sen. Lautenberg, Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation. “New Jersey commuters depend on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor every day, and this law will make sure our trains run more smoothly and reliably. Our law also modernizes railroad operations for the safety of commuters and workers and decreases risk with smarter regulation and new technology.”
Lautenberg’s legislation authorizes Amtrak for the first time since 2002. It also permanently extends New Jersey’s authority to regulate solid waste dumps in rail sites, which courts have prevented. Specifically, the legislation:
• Authorizes $13.06 billion over five years for passenger rail— more than $2.6 billion annually for Amtrak, intercity passenger rail, and high speed rail programs, which is almost double what the U.S. is currently spending;
• Requires a collaborative plan for bringing the Northeast Corridor to a state-of-good-repair by 2018;
• Requires Amtrak stations to comply with disability accessibility standards and authorize funding for such improvements;
• Allows states to clean up solid waste processing facilities on rail sites, which have avoided regulation through a loophole in Federal law;
• Applies state standards for air pollution, water pollution and fire safety to transfer facilities handling and storing solid waste in open dumps;
• Requires a Federal study and regulation on use of cell phones and other device distractions in locomotive cabs; and
• Creates a National Transportation Safety Board office to assist families of passengers following rail disasters.
More than 100,000 weekday New Jersey commuters travel on trains which use Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor line, which includes the two rail tunnels under the Hudson River. Amtrak operates more than 100 trains on a daily basis in New Jersey. Ridership continues to set record highs with more than 1.6 million people traveling on Amtrak in the state during Fiscal Year 2007. And Amtrak continues to partner with NJ Transit to make improvements to tracks and stations, such as Trenton, Metropark and Newark Penn Station.
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