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May 10, 2024

Polis Signs Bill to Create the Office of Rail Safety

PUEBLO, CO – Governor Jared Polis today signed legislation to establish the Office of Rail Safety which will study and implement rail safety measures in Colorado.

“As we work toward expanding passenger rail in Colorado, we need to ensure our railways are safe,” said Rep. Javier Mabrey, D-Denver. “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.” 

"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 Senator Lisa Cutter, D-Jefferson County. "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."

“We need to take steps now to improve rail safety and prevent dangerous derailments,” said Rep. Tisha Mauro, D-Pueblo. “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.” 

“As Colorado continues to grow, our rail-network will become even more critical to the sustainability of our state,” Senator Tony Exum Sr., D-Colorado Springs, 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.”

HB24-1030 will create the Office of Rail Safety within the Public Utilities Commission. The Office will be 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 would be required to submit their report to the General Assembly by December 1, 2024.

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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