Ohio Governor Signs NEW LAW – It’s Finally Official

(USNewsMag.com) – Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a state transportation budget that includes new measures for rail safety into law March 31.

The $13.5 billion budget includes new rail safety measures which were added to the budget after a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine in February, causing toxic chemicals to spill. DeWine signed the transportation budget with no vetoes, which he has not done since he took office. 

The $13.5 billion budget includes $7.5 billion in funds for state highway projects over the next 2 years. The budget also includes $3 billion in funds for the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor in Cincinnati project.

The budget affects the money local governments spend on projects done by their own workforce before the project must be put out to bid by outside contractors. The threshold for the amount they can spend was raised.  The budget also includes lowering registration fees of plug-in hybrid vehicles.

A crew of two would be mandated for freight trains. Wayside detectors, which are used to assist with spotting problems, would be required in 10- to 15-mile intervals, closer than the current 25-mile spacing required by the Federal Railroad Administration

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and the Ohio Department of Transportation would be responsible for oversight. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio  would be responsible for submitting its findings about railway detectors and cameras used to the General Assembly.

A trade group, Ohio Railroad Association,  argues that current federal law preempts the measures in the new law. Lawmakers argue that statewide safeguards are able to be put in place by the General Assembly.

However, new railway safety proposals are being considered by Congress that require a two-person crew as well as states being notified about hazardous materials being carried by trains. 

The transportation budget will go into effect July 1.

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