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Rail News: Safety 7/13/2015
Gov. Walker vetoes repeal of railroad trespass law
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has vetoed a provision in the new, two-year state budget that would have repealed a law that prohibited people from trespassing on railroad property.

The railroad industry had raised concerns that repealing the trespassing law would hurt efforts to prevent railroad trespass-related deaths and injuries. The measure was slipped into the state’s budget proposal during deliberations last week.

Union Pacific Railroad officials were among those expressing concern about the proposed repeal, particularly at a time when trespass fatalities have increased nationally.

Over the past five years, UP alone experienced eight trespasser injuries and 10 trespasser fatalities on its property in Wisconsin, UP Vice President of Public Affairs Donna Kush wrote in a letter to the editor published July 10 in the Wisconsin State Journal.

“The most troubling railroad safety problem — trespass fatalities — arises from factors outside railroad control. While railroads have reduced employee casualty rates by 84 percent since 1980, and derailments have dropped 82 percent since 1980 to a new low, trespass fatalities are up,” Kush’s letter stated.

Trespassing is the leading cause of rail-related deaths in the United States, Kush added.

“The impact of one death is far reaching,” she wrote. “It is heartbreaking for family and friends. It is also devastating for the train crew who were forced to witness the tragedy.”

Walker acknowledged the safety concerns in his written veto message.

“I am vetoing this section because I am concerned that allowing people to walk across railroad tracks outside of a designated crossing impairs public safety,” the governor said.