Riccelli rail safety measure clears House

OLYMPIA – A bill to help protect both rail workers and the public from high hazard, flammable trains passed the state House today on a strong bipartisan vote.

Sponsored by Rep. Marcus Riccelli, D-Spokane, HB 1841 establishes minimum crew size requirements for freight and passenger trains and trains carrying hazardous materials.

“This is about safety for both the public and railroad workers in our state. With the huge increase in rail shipments of Bakken oil and other dangerous, flammable materials traveling right through Spokane, we have a duty to ensure our community and others across the state are protected.”

The measure would affect fewer than five percent of all trains. Because of the trend by U.S. rail carriers of reducing train crew size, and an increase in high hazard flammable trains, passage of HB 1841 is an urgent safety issue for communities like Spokane, which experiences a significant amount of rail traffic through the city.

If signed by the governor, Washington would become the sixth state to have a minimum train crew law on the books.

Riccelli also sponsored a separate oil train safety bill requiring oil producers to meet safer vapor pressure standards prior to shipment from the Bakken region. While that bill did not advance out of committee, its companion in the Senate, SB 5579, passed that chamber on March 4. It is sponsored by Riccelli’s seatmate Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane.

HB 1841 and SB 5579 now each head to the opposite chamber for consideration.

The 2019 legislative session is scheduled to conclude on April 28.