The Business Council of New York State, the state’s leading statewide business and industry association, opposes S.8119/A.10714,that would amend the Railroad Law, the Transportation Law, the Highway Law, and the Vehicle and Traffic Law.
The legislation’s creation of a new Section 53-f of the Railroad Law, would establish a program of joint inspection of highway grade crossing signals that are interconnected with highway traffic signals. This would potentially grant access to the components of the railway grade crossing signal system to unauthorized, non-railroad personnel. This legislation is opposed by our rail members, due to access and control issues at the many points throughout the system.
In regards to bridge inspections, the legislation amends Section 236 of the Highway Law in an effort to conform state law to the requirements set forth in the federal Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. However, instead of achieving conformance, this change would bring many state laws into conflict with federal regulations, which, due to federal law preemptions of state law in the area of railroad bridges (and other rail-related matters such as track and railroad cars) creates confusion. In fact, the changes elevate the state Commissioner of Transportation’s authority to a level residing exclusively within the Federal Railroad Administration.
Section 5 of the legislation expands the definition of “railroad grade crossing” to include private roads thus reversing decades of established law in New York State that had excluded jurisdiction of private road grade crossings. This change will have far reaching implications and many unintended consequences in regards to private roads.
This legislation is being touted as a railroad safety package. While the idea of railroad safety is certainly in the public good, and the intent is laudable, the legislation has several serious flaws that will impact the rail industry, and by extension, the businesses and industries dependent on New York State’s vast rail infrastructure. In fact, we must note that the proposed package has only recently been introduced and as we understand it, has not yet been studied or vetted by the rail industry. S.8119/A.10714 was introduced just this week – on June 12. And the Departmental bills upon which much of this proposed legislation is drawn from, was only introduced on April 29 and has not even gone through committee let alone a review by the railroad industry.
With hundreds of businesses dependent on railroads, and the very commerce of New York State, and the interconnection with the State’s passenger network also impacted, The Business Council of New York State suggest the bill not be passed and instead, the industry be invited to discuss the package in a manner best suited to provide a long-term master plan for rail safety.
For the above reasons, The Business Council opposes S.8119/A.10714.