State lawmakers discussing bill that would limit how long trains can run

Arizona lawmakers are now considering a new bill that would enforce safety on railroads.
Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 9:58 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Arizona lawmakers are considering a new bill that would enforce safety on railroads.

It’s been more than two weeks since the Norfolk Southern Freight train derailed in Palestine, Ohio. The train was known to be transporting hazardous materials.

Now there is a major concern not just in the mid-east but here in Arizona.

Representative Consuelo Hernandez, (D-District 21), who represents parts of southern Arizona, said this isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue but one all Arizonans can agree on.

Promoting safety for not only you and me but those who work on the track is the main goal of this new proposal.

If it makes it into law, HB-2531 would limit how long these trains are allowed to be, which would help shorten the time these trains are stuck in one spot. Shortening the trains may also lower the chances of derailment.

“In Arizona, we are not prepared to provide the proper infrastructure for these very long trains,” Hernandez said.

She said this is a problem our state has faced for far too long.

“This isn’t a new issue just because Ohio and Detroit happened,” Hernandez said.” This has been an issue that has been going on for many many years.”

According to Scott Jones, the State Legislative Director for the SMART Union Transportation Division, since 2019 there have been 92 train derailments in Arizona and 18 of those happened last year.

“Both railroads are currently operating up to 17,000 feet right now,” Jones said.

Jones said the increased block crossing actually violates current state regulations in place. Right now, a train cannot block a crossing for more than 10 minutes unless moving in one continuous direction.

“This results in delays and backups because trains have very few places to meet and pass,” Jones said.

However, some said there are benefits to the longer trains.

According to the Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure longer trains mean fewer trains going through communities. Which they claim helps cut down greenhouse gas emissions.

“In my district specifically there is Rita Ranch where it came to my attention that there were instances of trains being held there for over an hour because of how lengthy those trains are.,” Hernandez said.

However, Hernandez said when those trains end up stopping for hours, it causes even bigger issues for people on the road and first responders.

“This is just not about my district, this is about ensuring the safety of all Arizonans,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said she doesn’t plan on stopping here. She hopes during the next session to introduce a piece of legislation that would address train infrastructure throughout the state.

If you would like to give your opinion on the bill, Hernandez said it’s best to reach out to your representative now.

“As a lawmaker, I want to protect everyone and I want to make sure what happened across the country doesn’t happen here and we have the opportunity to do that and it is through legislation,” Hernandez said.