October 11, 2013

Rahall: Shutdown is Compromising Transportation Safety

Calls on Speaker Boehner to End Standoff

Washington, DC – In a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall, top Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, warned of the detrimental impact that the ongoing government shutdown is having on the safety of the Nation’s transportation network.  Many routine inspections designed to ensure the safety of the traveling public have been suspended over the last twelve days.  Furloughed transportation safety inspectors have also been unable to investigate fatal accidents on the nation’s highways, transit systems, and at airports since the shutdown began. 

In his letter to the Speaker, Rahall writes, “The Government shutdown is having a debilitating effect on transportation and infrastructure programs – particularly the safety of our Nation’s transportation and infrastructure systems… As Ranking Member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, I urge you to end the Federal Government shutdown today – allow a simple up-or-down vote on the Senate-passed bill to continue funding for the Federal Government (H.J. Res. 59).” 

Transportation safety functions that the shutdown has brought to a halt or limited include:

  • The NTSB has been forced to furlough more than 93 percent of its staff and has not initiated investigations of several transportation accidents that have occurred since the shutdown began.
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is not carrying out inspections, safety reviews, or routine maintenance of dam, levee, and navigation lock structures.
  • U.S. Coast Guard has been forced to suspend inspections and repairs.  It has also reduced surface and air support, which compromises Coast Guard readiness and U.S. maritime security.
  • With all Federal investment in public transit capital and operating grants halted, local public transit agencies are finding it difficult to continue critical work to improve transit safety and operations.
  • U.S. Department of Transportation has been forced to cease work on aviation, highway, rail, and pipeline safety rulemakings, including rules regarding pilot training, motor coach safety, child safety, improvements to highway-rail grade crossings, the installation of automatic shut-off valves on pipelines, improvements to the integrity of oil and gas transmission pipelines, and the installation of leak detection technologies.  

A copy of the letter can be found here.