US Senate News:
Source: United States Senator for Massachusetts Ed Markey
Washington (June 16, 2021) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) commended the inclusion of key provisions to update our rail infrastructure and traffic safety programs in the Surface Transportation Investment Act (STIA), which passed out of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee earlier today. This bipartisan legislation provides $78 billion over 5 years, which includes $36 billion for rail infrastructure, $28 billion for freight transportation, $13 billion for safety initiatives, and $1 billion for transportation-related research and development programs. These figures do not include additional funding that will be provided by other Senate committees working on their own legislation to fund roads, bridges, transit, and other surface transportation programs.
“Today’s legislation makes a significant down payment on the rail and safety investments we need in this country,” said Senator Markey. “I am proud that my provisions on passenger rail, grade crossing safety, and automotive safety were included in this package. Through these programs, we can begin to solve long-unaddressed road safety challenges and promote more climate positive transportation options. However, significant work remains to be done before this bill becomes law – we must not only improve what we’ve already secured, but also increase overall funding levels and add in the policies required to achieve a true transportation transformation. I look forward to continuing the fight to make sure this legislation – and a broader infrastructure package – match the scope and scale of the crises facing our nation.”
Senator Markey’s provisions incorporated into the STIA include:
- BRAIN TRAIN Act – The legislation establishes a new Corridor Identification and Development Program aligned with Senator Markey’s BRAIN TRAIN Act, which will advance intercity passenger rail projects that create new service, enhance service, or restore former service in unserved and underserved communities like those in Western Massachusetts. Through this program, the Department of Transportation (DOT) will create a pipeline of identified rail projects eligible for federal funding. The STIA then provides $7.5 billion over five years for such projects, while giving funding preference to proposals included in the new development pipeline and that serve historically unconnected or under-connected areas, such as East-West Rail in Massachusetts.
- Warren Cowles Grade Crossing Safety Act – The surface transportation bill includes a new $500 million per year Railroad Crossing Elimination Program, which mirrors the goals of and incorporates language from Senator Markey’s Warren Cowles Grade Crossing Safety Act. This significant new funding will reduce rail-related fatalities nationwide – like the tragic death of Warren Cowles in Longmeadow, Massachusetts – by supporting critical improvements to highway-rail crossings, such as eliminating grade crossings, adding protective gates and signals, relocating track, or installing bridges.
- Promoting Auto Recalls Toward Safety (PARTS) Act – The STIA includes Senator Markey’s PARTS Act, which enhances the effectiveness of automotive recalls by authorizing the DOT to provide grants to states for use in notifying registered car owners about manufacturer-issued safety recalls. The legislation also requires automakers to complete extended reporting on their recall campaigns, as well as instructs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to publish an annual list detailing recall completion rates and effectiveness.
- Modernizing Seat Back Safety Act – The surface transportation bill includes a modified version of Senator Markey’s Modernizing Seat Back Safety Act, which requires NHTSA to issue an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) to update seat back safety standards, in order to prevent repeated tragedies caused by seat back collapse during car crashes. If NHTSA determines that a final rule is appropriate based on its ANPRM, the agency shall then issue updated seat back safety standards for new cars.
- Stay Aware for Everyone (SAFE) Act – The legislation includes a modified version of Senator Markey’s SAFE Act, which requires the DOT to study how driver-monitoring systems can prevent driver distraction, driver disengagement, automation complacency, and the foreseeable misuse of advanced driver-assist systems. If warranted based on the results of this study, the STIA then requires a rulemaking to require the installation of driver-monitoring systems in new cars, which shall incorporate appropriate privacy and data security safeguards.
- Early Warning Reporting System Improvement Act – The surface transportation bill includes Senator Markey’s Early Warning Reporting System Improvement Act, which strengthens compliance requirements for automakers to report on potential defects and incidents involving fatalities and serious injuries to NHTSA. The legislation also directs NHTSA to make the information it receives through its vehicle safety databases publicly available in a more user-friendly format, so that consumers and independent safety experts can evaluate potential safety defects themselves.
- Ensuring Transparency and Accountability – The STIA includes language that Senator Markey requested to ensure that the Federal Railroad Administration will provide public notice and an opportunity to comment before it can waive or suspend critical track safety standards, which will ensure stakeholders and the public can weigh in on these important safety issues before the agency makes any decisions.