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Lawmakers Want Federal Gov't To Earmark More Money For Railroad Safety

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In the wake of the deadly train derailment in the Bronx, Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut are continuing their push for more funding and greater accountability when it comes to rail safety. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.

The statistics the lawmakers cite are ominous. Only 1 percent of the country's rails are inspected each year by the Federal Railroad Administration, with only 78 track inspectors to make those needed safety checks.

Sen. Charles Schumer and Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut say that's unacceptable.

"It simply doesn't have enough resources to fully inspect our rail lines, to sufficiently prepare implementation of safety measures or even do safety spot checks," Schumer said.

The tracks were not found to be the problem in the crash that killed four people at Spuyten Duyvil earlier this month, but the senators say that this is about oversight of the country's commuter and commercial rails in general. They say that a severe lack of funding for the FRA is holding it back.

Federal sequestration cuts actually meant that last year, funding for rail safety dropped by $9 million. They're saying that a bipartisan budget deal reached in Congress means that funding should be a priority to increase this year.

"We are urging that they use that money for safety first, to make sure they can implement all the various safety recommendations," Schumer said.

They're calling for $185 million for the FRA in the next budget, with $15 million set aside to hire 45 more employees dedicated to rail safety.

"We're not talking here about luxuries or excesses," Blumenthal said. "We're talking about the basic safety protections that citizens are due."

The commuters NY1 spoke with welcome more funding for safety, but some are skeptical that these changes can make a difference.

"I think we need to do something in light of the tragedies," said one person. "Safety is very important. A lot of people ride the rails.

"How useful are 40 inspectors going to be across the nation?" said another, who said she'd like to see even more.

The senators say that the goal will be to make rail safety a budget priority beyond just this $185 million. They say it's a matter of life and death.

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