Monday, March 23, 2015

HR 1405 Introduced – RAILS Act

As I mentioned earlier Rep. Lipinski (D,IL) introduced HR 1405, the Reassuring Adequate Investment in Lifesaving Systems (RAILS) Act. The bill would reauthorize and expand the Railroad Safety Technology Grant program under 49 USC 20158, extending the authorization of the program through 2020.

The bill would extend the authorized use of the grants to include “advanced communications methods for conveying hazard information between all parties in the transportation chain, spectrum acquisition, multifrequency broadband connectivity equipment, implementation and interoperability testing” {added to §20158(a)}. There is no specific definition of ‘hazard information’ in the bill, but Lipinski’s press release on the bill specifically mentions “a system for electronic communication regarding hazardous material rail shipments”.

Unlike most bills that have been recently introduced expanding the potential uses of grant programs, this bill would increase the amount authorized for this program from $50 million to $200 million.

In the overall scope of the Federal budget (or even just the DOT budget) this increase is small enough not to be a serious impediment to passage. The biggest problem that this bill will need to overcome is the lack of bipartisan support in the sponsorship of the bill. Lipinski is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (the first hurdle in the legislative process for this bill), but he may not be senior or influential enough to convince the Republican leadership to begin consideration of this bill.

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