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Senators Push For More Safety Inspectors Following Metro-North Derailment

Officials: FRA Funds Only Cover 1 Percent Of Rail Safety Operations Nationwide
The senators called for more funding to FRA. (Credit: WCBS 880)

The senators called for more funding to FRA. (Credit: WCBS 880)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Richard Blumenthal are calling for more railroad safety inspectors in the wake of the fatal Metro-North derailment earlier this month.

The senators made a joint appearance Sunday to reveal that federal railroad safety officials only have funds to inspect one percent of rail operations nationwide.

Sen. Blumenthal called the number shocking, 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported.

“So you’ve got 140,000 miles of track across the United States, 78 inspectors, which is an impossible task,” Blumenthal said.

In a congressional briefing this week, senior officials said the Federal Railroad Administration needs more funds to do necessary safety inspections of infrastructure and protocols, as well as to implement positive train control.

“When the FRA is so underfunded, they’re not doing their job.  So it’s up to the local railroads to do it and some do better jobs than others as we’ve seen, ” Sen. Schumer said.

The FRA said that following the Metro-North derailment, which killed four people and injured more than 60 others, it is looking to send additional teams to rail systems across the country.  However, the administration said it needs more resources in order to prevent another accident.

Blumenthal said there will be a safety report from an FRA team within 60 days, WCBS 880’s Ginny Kosola reported.

Schumer and Blumenthal announced Sunday that they will fight for additional funds in the upcoming fiscal year 2014 appropriations bill, so the agency can hire an additional 45 inspectors.

The budget sequester cut approximately $9 million from the FRA’s budget in the 2013 fiscal year, WCBS 880 reported.

The additional inspectors will be dedicated to inspecting railways, as well as evaluating safety protocols and the infrastructure of railroads around the country.

The senators requested that Congress meet the Obama administration’s full 2014 request of $185 million for safety and operations, an increase of approximately $15 million over this year’s sequestered budget.

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