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house Bill H.R. 543

Should the Federal Railroad Administration Disclose When It’s Conducting Safety Assessments?

Argument in favor

Rail passengers and members of Congress need to be informed when their rail systems are being audited for safety issues. This is a matter of public safety, and there’s no reason for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to keep its investigations confidential.

eliyak's Opinion
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02/06/2019
All federal documents are public property, and should be available to the public.
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Larry's Opinion
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02/07/2019
If taxpayers pay for it, they have a right to know everything their money bought.
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Frances's Opinion
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02/04/2019
WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THESE COMPANIES TO DO NOT SACRIFICE SAFETY TO MAKE MORE MONEY!
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Argument opposed

Keeping FRA investigations confidential until their results are available helps prevent unnecessary panic and the politicization of such investigations. Forcing the FRA to go public with its investigations before they conclude invites unnecessary additional pressure on investigators.

burrkitty's Opinion
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02/06/2019
Are we going to schedule them now to? Everything looks perfect when everybody knows an inspector is coming. It doesn’t capture actual day to day working conditions. Inspections only work if they are A. done constantly or B. done in secret. Unless you wanna pay inspectors to inspect way more often, you can’t make the knowledge of when an inspection is going to occur in public. Unless you just actually don’t care at all whether were safe or not.
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Mike's Opinion
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02/06/2019
It could interfere with the integrity of the investigation. I agree with quickly providing the results of the investigation, that just makes sense. I believe that doing the safety inspections should have zero notice to better capture the aspects of the train lines safety cultural.
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RjGoodman's Opinion
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02/06/2019
No! How does any organization do real safety reviews, or any reviews, if they tell the organization that they are under review?
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
  • The house has not voted
      house Committees
      Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
    IntroducedJanuary 14th, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 543?

This bill would require the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to provide members of Congress with notice of when a comprehensive safety assessment is being conducted on an intercity or commuter rail transit agency that serves their district. This notice would be required to come within 10 days of the FRA initiating a safety assessment and be sent to members of Congress, senators, and the relevant congressional committees. Once the safety assessment is completed, FRA would have 90 days to inform those parties of the assessment’s findings, including specific defects and any recommendations to address them. 

Impact

Rail systems; commuter rail systems; Congress; FRA; and relevant Congressional committees.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 543

$2.00 Million
When this bill was introduced in 2017, the CBO estimated that this bill would cost $2 million over the 2018-2022 period, due to the need for the FRA to hire additional personnel to complete the reporting requirements required in the bill.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Albio Sires (D-NJ) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to ensure that members of Congress and their constituents know when their railroad services are under safety audits:

“I am pleased to introduce this bill to ensure that our constituents know when the railroad services they rely on are under audit for safety reasons. Members of Congress and Senators must know when and why these safety assessments are underway so that we may inform our constituents and work on ways to provide assistance. My constituents and I never want to be caught off-guard by an unsafe rail transit agency – particularly when the federal government has been investigating it. This bill has previously been approved by the House and I look forward to making the case to my colleagues in the 116th Congress that we are all better served by a transparent and responsive rail safety oversight.”

There’s one cosponsor of this bill, Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ). In the 115th Congress, this bill passed the House without objection with the support of two cosponsors, both of whom were Democrats.


Of NoteThis bill was prompted by the 2016 Hoboken train crash, which killed a young mother and injured 110 passengers and crewmembers. In the wake of that crash, it was revealed that the FRA had been conducting a “deep audit” on NJ Transit, prompted by an increase in safety violations, but it hadn’t revealed this safety review to relevant members of Congress or the public.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / BeyondImages)

AKA

To require the Federal Railroad Administration to provide appropriate congressional notice of comprehensive safety assessments conducted with respect to intercity or commuter rail passenger transportation.

Official Title

To require the Federal Railroad Administration to provide appropriate congressional notice of comprehensive safety assessments conducted with respect to intercity or commuter rail passenger transportation.

    All federal documents are public property, and should be available to the public.
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    Are we going to schedule them now to? Everything looks perfect when everybody knows an inspector is coming. It doesn’t capture actual day to day working conditions. Inspections only work if they are A. done constantly or B. done in secret. Unless you wanna pay inspectors to inspect way more often, you can’t make the knowledge of when an inspection is going to occur in public. Unless you just actually don’t care at all whether were safe or not.
    Like (15)
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    It could interfere with the integrity of the investigation. I agree with quickly providing the results of the investigation, that just makes sense. I believe that doing the safety inspections should have zero notice to better capture the aspects of the train lines safety cultural.
    Like (9)
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    No! How does any organization do real safety reviews, or any reviews, if they tell the organization that they are under review?
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    Unintended consequence of this would be the reluctance of conducting a safety audit since it will trigger such a public event. This could lead to a more dangerous system.
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    Absolutely not! Safety reviews should always come by surprise! That way, you can get an accurate assessment of the safety of our transportation systems. Local officials will just simply cover up any safety issues if they get advance notice!
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    I’m a former railroad conductor and the fact that inspections were done in secret was the only way to force the railroads to comply. This meant a safe work place for employees. If they know their compliance would only be when a inspection was announced. I know this because I lived it for 20 years.
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    If taxpayers pay for it, they have a right to know everything their money bought.
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    Not until Congress starts major subsidizing passenger rail and high speed rail across the US. Stop subsidizing airlines and bring forth another mode of cross country travel.
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    WE NEED TO MAKE SURE THESE COMPANIES TO DO NOT SACRIFICE SAFETY TO MAKE MORE MONEY!
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    This bill would remove any credible integrity from the assessment. While it should be required for the FRA to publicly publish any/all findings from an assessment, giving the district forewarning will only ensure all’s well just before the assessment takes place. Once it is completed, the district will likely be immune from other such visits for months or years. That’s plenty of time to take what should be a stellar safety program down almost immediately.
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    Just for their district? Not everyone’s? Hell, no! Same for all. No special perks for our “special” people in D.C. What will this cost us?
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    Telling congress about an inspection would hold up fixing the railroad. It is better if surprise inspection to see where the need is to get it fix.
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    They should be posting not only when they are performing safety inspections, but also their grade. Much like a restaurant... and industrial facilities... and airlines... and literally everything involving human health and possible risk. As far as "causing panic" goes... no body will panic because no body will read it anyway.
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    No early warning system.
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    As needed basis; Not Big public announcement
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    Might as well stick up a RED FLAG & ANNOUNCE THE INSPECTION IS COMING. They’ll do some house cleaning and make it look good for the inspection. Now, if this question was meant to mean- the public needs to know what inspectors discover about railroads when inspections occur, THEN YES WE SHOULD KNOW.
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    My money My employees My right to know wtf they are doing
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    A combination of announced and unannounced audits typically provides the most accurate assessment of conditions. Districts should know they are due for a safety audit but not the precise timing, to preserve integrity. Or announce and schedule every other audit, but leave alternating audits unpublicized until they are complete. In any case, I do agree with making findings public as quickly as possible in line with transparency and accuracy.
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    Why! Get a real assessment. Make it a surprise.
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