Representative Nita Lowey

Representing the 17th District of New York

Lowey Rail Safety Amendment Unanimously Passes House

September 7, 2017
Press Release
Lowey amendment would provide $1 million to support medical fitness standards for critical safety personnel on interstate railways.

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY17/Rockland-Westchester), Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee, applauded unanimous House passage of an amendment she introduced to help prevent future rail accidents caused by medical conditions of critical safety employees.

“While Congress has worked to require passenger railroads to implement technology that will prevent rail accidents and save lives, there is still more to be done to address human factors that can contribute to fatal derailments,” said Congresswoman Lowey. “My amendment would make a necessary investment in rail safety, helping ensure that critical safety personnel are capable of carrying out their responsibilities. This amendment is a major achievement, and I am pleased that both my Republican and Democratic colleagues recognized the need to move it forward. We have taken an important step to prevent future rail accidents and save lives.”

Congresswoman Lowey’s amendment would set aside $1 million for the Federal Railroad Administration to establish medical fitness standards for critical safety personnel on interstate railways. By establishing criteria for medical fitness, the Federal Railroad Administration can help interstate railways ensure that train operators and other employees who are critical to operational safety are fit to serve in these roles.

In recent years, a number of horrific tragedies have drawn attention to significant shortfalls in railroad safety across the country, and have highlighted the need to address human-factor causes in train derailments. On December 1, 2013, a Metro-North train derailed outside of Spuyten Duyvil, New York, killing 4 passengers and injuring 61. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that one major contributing factor was the train operator’s undiagnosed sleep apnea, which led to his loss of situational awareness. NTSB identified medical fitness requirements for safety-critical personnel as one of its most-wanted transportation safety improvements for 2017.

Congresswoman Lowey has been a leading voice in the House for improved rail safety, including the installation of Positive Train Control. In July, Lowey offered an amendment to the FY2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill to provide $199 million for the implementation of Positive Train Control. In May, Lowey wrote to National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Acting Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt urging him to do everything in his power to push for the prompt implementation of PTC.