LaHood lauds Senate for transit safety bill

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood yesterday commended the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee for reporting out the Obama Administration’s transit safety bill, the first transit-specific safety bill ever sent to Congress by any administration, by a unanimous vote. 

The bill now goes to the Senate floor.

Secretary LaHood applauded Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, Ranking Member Richard Shelby and Subcommittee Chairman Robert Menendez for taking the first major step in passing the Administration’s Public Transportation Safety Act of 2010, a bill that would end the current prohibition against the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) from directly overseeing safety programs.

Secretary LaHood sent the Administration bill to Congress in December 2009.

“I want to thank the Banking Committee for working together to move this historic legislation forward,” said Secretary LaHood in a written statement.  “Safety is the Department of Transportation’s number one priority and we look forward to working with the full Senate and House to get this bill passed and signed into law.”
Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff called it a “milestone”  as “the first major step in untying the hands of the Federal Transit Administration and allowing us to implement national safety standards.

“While transit is a safe way to travel, we still see too many preventable accidents, including fatal accidents,” Rogoff said.  “We need these tools to ensure that transit remains safe as our systems age and experienced employees retire in increasing numbers.”

The legislation, if passed, will authorize the Department of Transportation to establish federal safety standards for rail transit systems, reversing a prohibition that has been in effect since 1965.
In addition to this bill, Secretary LaHood announced the formation of the Transit Rail Advisory Committee for Safety (TRACS) on June 23 of this year. The 20 individuals who will initially serve on TRACS represent all geographic regions in the U.S. and include experts from state transit agencies of all sizes, state safety oversight organizations, labor unions, and industry associations.

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The recommendations of TRACS will help FTA develop new policies and practices and, should FTA be given authority to promulgate new transit safety requirements, new regulations for enhancing rail transit safety