Bill to make Utah railroad crossings safer advances in House

Feb 8, 2023, 7:10 PM | Updated: Feb 9, 2023, 6:28 am

SALT LAKE CITY —As the Beehive State continues to grow, more people are commuting, whether by car, train or foot, we have seen more collisions at Utah’s railroad crossings.

A new bill aims to increase safety at those crossings across the state.

HB63 would create the Office of Rail Safety. The office would inspect railroad operations and make sure they are keeping Utahns safe.

House Majority Leader Mike Schultz, R-Hooper, who sponsored the bill, said 16 people have died, and another 33 injured over the last five years in more than 75 crashes at railroad crossings. Under HB63, Union Pacific would fund the Rail Safety Office.

“There would be 12 employees and inspectors that go all across the state to inspect the concerns and address the concerns of the local government to come together and see if there’s ways to come together with Union Pacific to address the crossings mainly, but really over all the safety concerns,” he said.

Schultz said reconstructing railroad crossings to make them safer has been increasingly difficult because of Union Pacific’s lack of cooperation.

“We have some circumstances where we have a four-lane road, it necks down to two lanes to cross the railroad, and then it widens back to four lanes because we can’t get the approval from Union Pacific to widen that roadway,” Schultz said.

If passed, Schultz hopes the bill creates a better working relationship between Union Pacific, local governments, and the state of Utah so they can find solutions to improve safety on the railroads.

“When you have hundreds of projects across the state that are being held up because Union Pacific won’t approve them or they are forcing the local government to pay for them where they otherwise have not or the state of Utah, it’s not fair to place that burden on the taxpayer. Union Pacific needs to step up,” Schultz said.

A committee recently sent the bill to the House floor.

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Bill to make Utah railroad crossings safer advances in House