Chairman Rockefeller Introduces Landmark Railroad Reform Legislation

Rockefeller’s Twenty-Five Year Commitment to Reforming Rail Policy Advances Through the Commerce Committee —Most Comprehensive Rail Reform Legislation to Move Through the Commerce Committee Since The Staggers Rail Act of 1980

December 17, 2009


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, issued the following statement today after the Committee held an Executive Session and favorably reported out S. 2889, the Surface Transportation Board (STB) Reauthorization Act of 2009. The STB Reauthorization Act of 2009 (STB Act), cosponsored by Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator Frank Lautenberg, Senator John Thune, and Senator Byron Dorgan, will comprehensively update and improve the railroad industry and address longstanding competitive imbalances for shippers by increasing rail competition, strengthening federal oversight, and improving shipper’s access to regulatory relief.

“After this Committee’s extensive bipartisan work with all stakeholders, I am extremely pleased to see we have moved one step closer to improving America’s railroad industry—a critical infrastructure to our nation’s economic recovery,” said Chairman Rockefeller. “For a quarter of a century, I have worked to enact needed rail legislation that would provide real reform and address the shippers’ problems. The bill would fix these problems and prepare our rail regulatory structure to encourage a vital, robust rail industry. The bipartisan STB Reauthorization Act of 2009 is carefully crafted to address rail-shipper imbalances and strengthen the railroad industry. I will continue to work with Senator Kohl and other members to add antitrust reforms to our bill as it moves to the floor. I look forward to seeing this bill pass expeditiously and be signed into law by the President. ”


This bipartisan legislation is the first comprehensive reauthorization of the STB since it was established under the ICC Termination Act of 1995 and the first significant reform of rail competition policy in 30 years.

The STB is tasked with economic oversight of the railroad industry and implementation of the Staggers Act of 1980, which was enacted at a time when the railroads were on the verge of bankruptcy and included many policies intended to help return them to financial health. Today, the railroad industry is drastically different. The major railroads have consolidated, returned to profitability, and regained market share from other modes. However, current economic rail oversight has not kept pace with these changes and captive shippers – those with no other transportation option – face fewer competitive choices and have fewer regulatory protections.

The bipartisan STB Reauthorization Act of 2009 is carefully crafted to address rail-shipper imbalances and strengthen the railroad sector.


Increases rail competition by requiring major railroads to quote “bottleneck rates,” setting standards for “reciprocal switching” and “terminal access” rates, creating a process for parties to challenge “paper barriers;” and by increasing STB scrutiny of future railroad mergers for competitive, service, and environmental effects.

Strengthens STB oversight of the railroad industry by updating the rail transportation policy, giving the Board independent investigative authority, and creating a strong rail customer advocate to help resolve shippers’ concerns.

Improves shippers’ access to regulatory relief by improving the processes by which rate complaints are resolved, requiring railroads to provide service standards to shippers, requiring the STB to review current class exemptions for unregulated railroad traffic, and by setting lower fees for filing complaints at the STB.