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July 1, 2024

New Law to Create the Office of Rail Safety Goes Into Effect

DENVER, CO – Legislation to establish the Office of Rail Safety which will study and implement rail safety measures in Colorado goes into effect today.

HB24-1030, sponsored by Senators Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County, and Tony Exum, Sr., D-Colorado Springs, and Representatives Javier Mabrey, D-Denver, and Tisha Mauro, D-Pueblo, creates the Office of Rail Safety within the Public Utilities Commission. The Office is required to create a report including information to increase rail safety measures such as assessments of train length, emergency response and financial responsibility for cleanups of hazardous material incidents, and necessary staffing and equipment levels for implementation of safety measures. Under the law, the Office is required to submit their report to the General Assembly by December 1, 2024.

"Train derailments and obstruction accidents have increased and we must protect the safety of workers and our communities, particularly as we move to expand passenger rail," said Cutter. "Hazardous materials are frequently moved by rail through heavily forested areas near critical waterways, so an accident has the potential to be catastrophic. Our new Office of Rail Safety will oversee rail operations and collect data to help address the real safety issues we know are plaguing the rail industry."

“As we work toward expanding passenger rail in Colorado, we need to ensure our railways are safe,” said Mabrey. “We know train derailments can be incredibly destructive and dangerous, which is why we’re working toward ways to ramp up Colorado's rail safety measures. This law establishes the Office of Rail Safety to oversee rail operations, collect data and create safer railways for us all.”

“As Colorado continues to grow, our rail-network will become even more critical to the sustainability of our state,” Exum said. “Train derailments can shut down critical transportation networks, cause major environmental harms, and threaten the health and safety of countless individuals. This new law will help ensure that the economic needs of our commercial rail system are met, without sacrificing the safety of our communities, our environment, or our transportation professionals.”

“We need to take steps now to improve rail safety and prevent dangerous derailments,” said Mauro. “This law creates the Office of Rail Safety to oversee rail operations across the state and requires them to file a report on critical safety information, such as train length, emergency response and clean up protocols.”

The law aims to improve safety requirements for railroads operating in Colorado by:

  • Improving emergency response procedures through preparation and coordination;

  • Initiating state oversight of critical wayside detector systems;

  • Requiring a train crossing to be clear when an emergency vehicle, such as an ambulance or police car, approaches;

  • Allowing relevant union representatives to request investigations from the Office of Rail Safety; and

  • Increasing penalties for safety violations, with increased emphasis on repeat or knowing violations.

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