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Rail Safety Highlights Ohio's New Transportation Budget

Ohio Senate Passes Budget with Strong Bipartisan Vote
March 23, 2023
Matt Huffman News

COLUMBUS—Today the Ohio Senate approved the state’s new two-year TransportationBudget which funds transportation and highway projects around the state.

The Senate worked diligently to pass new rail safety guidance following the toxic derailment in East Palestine, as the Senate’s Select Committee on Rail Safety continues its series of meetings.

“While regulating the railroad is mostly a function of the federal government, I’m confident these are strong steps to reinforce safety for trains that travel through our Ohio neighborhoods,” said Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima).

Among the changes:

•    Requiring Wayside Detection Systems to be installed in basic ten-mile increments and at a distance of no more than fifteen miles based on terrain.

•    Requiring the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to study and submit a report within 90 days regarding best practices for hot boxes and bearing temperature failure detectors, acoustic detectors that identify failing bearings and evaluate the need for installing cameras along the tracks also known as wayside detection systems.

“I’m pleased the Senate made these changes that are designed to find ways to improve railroad safety,” said Senator Michael Rulli, R-Salem. “The derailment in East Palestine hurt the community immensely and will be felt by our neighbors there for years to come. We must do better.”

The nearly $13.5 billion, two-year Transportation Budget is funded with MTF, Motor Fuel Taxes, more commonly called Ohio’s gas tax revenue. It funds road, highway and bridge projects around the state.

The bill also allows local governments to create a “Force Account” and establish a spending limit for projects that can be done with municipal, county or township employees. “This saves taxpayer money and simply helps get things done,” said Senate President Matt Huffman. “Sometimes smaller projects can be completed in-house and this saves additional costs that would be charged by a contractor.”

“Of all the bills we pass in the Ohio General Assembly, this is the one that Ohioans see every day,” said Transportation Committee Chair, Senator Stephanie Kunze, (R-Dublin). “They pump their gas, they watch for potholes, and slow down for the orange signs of road construction every spring. It’s so very important we get it right.”

The bill passed with a vote of 30-0.

Find the bill here.