Friday, March 8, 2024

Review - HR 7237 Introduced – Rail Line Barriers

Last month, Rep Holmes (D,DC) introduced HR 7237, the Protecting Homes from Trains Act of 2024. The bill would require DOT to establish a new grant program “to design or construct a barrier to mitigate rail activity that may negatively impact a residential structure or its use”. The bill would authorize $100 million per year through 2029 to support the new grant program.

Moving Forward

Norton is a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to which this bill was assigned for consideration. This means that there may be sufficient influence to see the bill considered in Committee. The spending authorization in the bill will be the biggest impediment to this bill moving forward in the Republican controlled House. I do not expect that the bill will be considered in Committee.


There are a couple of problems with this legislation. First it has no provisions for cost sharing. There is a purely local benefit from constructing these barriers, so there should be some sort of cost sharing requirements for the legislation. The larger the amount, the further the grant funds would extend.

Second, while the technology for noise and vibration barriers is fairly well established, barriers that would stop derailing trains from impacting residential structures are not. I am especially concerned that a rigid barrier that would resist the impact of a loaded railcar would have adverse impacts (just a slight pun intended there) on chemical tank cars, especially hazmat railcars. I think that a significant portion of the funding in this grant program should go towards the development energy absorbing barriers. I would add a new paragraph (3) to §2(b):

“(3) At least 10% of each years grant expenditures will be on research for developing energy absorbing barriers that would stop derailed railcars from impacting residential areas.”

For more details about the provisions of this bill, including additional commentary, see my article at CFSN Detailed Analysis - - subscription required.

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