Kansas Bill Limiting Train Length Heard in Transportation Committee

If you’ve ever been stuck for a prolonged length of time east of Broadway on NW 13th Street, you will appreciate this post.

Kansas has introduced legislation to limit the length of freight trains. Kansas State Sen. Mike Petersen (R-Wichita) is the author of Senate Bill 271 which would limit trains to a length of 8,500 feet or roughly 1.6 miles. It also requires rolling stock stored on sidings to be at least 250 feet from a railroad crossing. Penalties for violations of either rules range from $500 to $100,000.

The bill was heard in the Kansas Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday and Wednesday. Tuesday’s testimony focused on public safety concerns over the amount of time that lengthy trains block grade crossings. Brandon Nunnenkamp, an engineer for BNSF, also provided a railway perspective and raised safety concerns about the ability to communicate with crew members via portable radios.

BNSF Associate General Counsel Adam Weiskittel told Kansas legislators that federal law governs train lengths; however, the current law is silent on this issue. Weiskittel explained that it is not an area that is subject to regulation by the state despite actions taken by union representatives for rail workers and state legislators.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office reviewed the topic of train length in 2019. It found that the average train length was 1.2 to 1.4 miles long, an increase of 25% from the prior decade. The GAO also found that some trains stretch as long as 3 miles or more.

Other states currently considering railway transportation bills on train lengths include Arizona, Iowa and Washington.

Kansas Senate Bill 271 can be found here.