The family of Dr. Gary Burch and the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) announced that House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.), will be presented with a special Dr. Gary Burch Memorial Safety Award. The award, which honors individuals who have significantly enhanced rail passenger safety, is sponsored by the family of Dr. Burch, who died in a 1991 passenger train derailment in South Carolina.
Oberstar was the primary sponsor of the Railroad Safety Enhancement Act of 2008, which directed the Federal Railroad Administration to "make safety in railroad transportation the highest priority in carrying out its duties."
"There is a significant part of this legislation that ensures that family members of victims receive timely and appropriate support in the event of a tragedy; for those who have lived through it, this is monumental" said Michael Burch, son of Gary Burch. "Congressman Oberstar is a hero to everyone who rides the trains."
The Rail Safety Enhancement Act mandates the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop a long-term strategy for improving railroad safety, and requires railroads to implement positive train control, an electronic system of monitoring and controlling train movements to prevent collisions in the event of engineer failure. The law was enacted in October, 2008, with the impetus for final action by Congress coming from the tragic train collision in Chatsworth, California, on September 12, 2008.
"When I became Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in January 2007, I pledged that the Committee's agenda would center on three principles: enhancing safety and security, investing in our infrastructure, and addressing the twin challenges of rising energy costs and global climate change," said Rep. Oberstar. "Enactment of the Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2007 was a critical step forward in increasing safety standards for the rail industry, and that law will go a long way in making rail travel safer for rail workers and the general public. I am very honored to receive the Dr. Gary Burch Memorial Safety Award, because safety always has been and will continue to be my number one priority."