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Railroad Safety Requirements

Concerning railroad safety, and, in connection therewith, limiting the maximum length of a train operating in the state, requiring certain railroads to use wayside detector systems, limiting the amount of time a train may obstruct public travel at certain crossings, authorizing a crew member's designated union representative to investigate certain reported incidents, authorizing the public utilities commission to impose fines for certain violations, requiring fine revenue to be paid to the transit and rail division in the department of transportation for the purposes of maintaining and improving the safety of a passenger rail system, requiring certain railroads to carry insurance coverage in minimum amounts, and making an appropriation.
2024 Regular Session
Transportation & Motor Vehicles
Bill Summary

Transportation Legislation Review Committee. The bill imposes safety requirements on railroads operating trains in the state. The bill specifies that:

  • The length of a train must not exceed 8,500 feet;
  • With certain exceptions, on or before July 1, 2026, and thereafter, railroads must operate, maintain, and report the location of wayside detector systems. A wayside detector is an electronic device or a series of devices that monitors passing trains for defects.
  • A train may not obstruct a public crossing for longer than 10 minutes unless the train is continuously moving or is prevented from moving by circumstances beyond the railroad's control; With certain exceptions, any train or equipment operating on a main line or siding in the state must be operated in such a manner as to minimize obstruction of emergency vehicles at highway-rail crossings. Where such obstruction occurs and the train crew is aware of the obstruction, the train crew must immediately take any action, consistent with safe operating procedures, necessary to clear the highway-rail crossing.
  • Upon the approach of an emergency vehicle at a crossing, if the emergency vehicle gives warning of its approach by the sounding of sirens, flashing of lights, waving of a flag, or any other warning sufficient to attract attention to the emergency vehicle, a train crew must separate the train or equipment and clear the crossing with all possible dispatch to permit the emergency vehicle to pass.
  • Any crew member of a train may report to the crew member's designated union representative a safety violation, injury, or death that occurred during the operation of a train. After receiving a report of a violation, a designated union representative may enter a railroad's place of operation to investigate the report during reasonable hours and after notifying providing reasonable notice to the railroad.
  • The public utilities commission (PUC) may impose fines for the violation of these safety requirements or for denying a union representative's access to the railroad's place of operation. The bill requires the PUC to develop guidelines for determining, imposing, and appealing fines.

The bill also creates the front range passenger rail district maintenance and safety fund (fund), which consists of money collected as fines imposed by the PUC. For the 2025-26 state fiscal year and each state fiscal year thereafter, money in the fund is continuously annually appropriated to the state treasurer for the purpose of issuing warrants from the fund to the front range passenger rail district transit and rail division in the department of transportation to be expended for safety planning and development during the research, development, and construction of a passenger rail system; maintaining a passenger rail system; and completing capital development projects to improve the safety of a passenger rail system.

The bill requires that on or before July 1, 2025, and at least once every 3 years thereafter, each railroad offer training to each fire department having jurisdiction along tracks upon which the railroad operates in the state. The PUC is required to promulgate rules concerning the training.

The bill requires railroads that transport hazardous material in Colorado to maintain insurance coverage that is adequate to cover costs and liabilities resulting from accidents. The PUC is required to promulgate rules establishing minimum coverage amounts.

For the 2024-25 state fiscal year, the bill appropriates $11,651 from the general fund to the department of regulatory agencies for use by the PUC.

(Note: Italicized words indicate new material added to the original summary; dashes through words indicate deletions from the original summary.)

(Note: This summary applies to the reengrossed version of this bill as introduced in the second house.)


Under Consideration


Bill Text

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The effective date for bills enacted without a safety clause is August 7, 2024, if the General Assembly adjourns sine die on May 8, 2024, unless otherwise specified. Details