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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, April 6 — Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed the state’s $13.5 billion transportation budget into law on Friday, March 31. The bill includes a mandate for two-person train crews and other important rail safety measures in response to Norfolk Southern’s February 3 derailment and toxic chemical spill in East Palestine.

In addition to the two-person crew requirement, the legislation (Ohio House Bill 23) contains the following rail safety provisions:

  • Requires wayside defect detectors to be installed every 10-15 miles along the main line track in Ohio; and
  • Requires the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to develop and enforce additional requirements for the installation and use of wayside defect detectors in Ohio.

BLET Ohio State Legislative Board Chairman John Esterly said: “Ohio is now the first and only state with requirements for wayside detectors. We need to see this spread like wildfire, ideally to U.S. Congress.”

BLET National President Eddie Hall thanked Governor DeWine for signing the bill. President Hall also thanked Brother Esterly and all involved BLET members for their efforts in lobbying for the passage of this vital rail safety legislation.

“Technology cannot replace the eyes and ears of two certified train crew members. As we saw in East Palestine, there’s no way ground-based employees could respond to derailments faster than employees already inside the locomotive cab,” President Hall said. “I am pleased that Governor DeWine and his fellow Ohio lawmakers could see through the usual rhetoric spouted by rail corporate lobbyists. I thank them for passing this common-sense rail safety legislation into law.”

Brother Esterly said: “I credit my predecessor, mentor, and friend — the late Tim Price — with laying the groundwork for this legislation over his terms as State Chairman. I also can’t thank my Board enough for stepping up in a time of tragedy and working tirelessly over the last eight weeks to do the work — to make the calls, to write the letters, to stand up and speak with me, and to fill the room when votes occurred.”

Brother Esterly also thanked the Ohio AFL-CIO, which made passage of the bill its top legislative priority after the East Palestine derailment. “We had plenty of help from legislators on both sides of the aisle to pass this critical legislation — there were only three ‘no’ votes between both chambers and 126 in favor,” Esterly said.