Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability are calling on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg for information on the “disturbing” trend of aviation and rail safety failures.
In a letter dated Sept. 5, House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) and a group of Republicans requested a briefing, documents and communications related to the Transportation Department’s handling of various aviation and rail safety issues.
Buttigieg, a former Democratic presidential candidate in 2020 who is seen as a rising star, has frequently been a target of GOP lawmakers.
Comer is also overseeing investigations related to President Biden and the business dealings of his son, Hunter Biden.
In the letter to Buttigieg, the GOP lawmakers pointed to a report last year from the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Office of Inspector General (OIG), which found “aviation safety” and “surface transportation safety” have been among the leading management challenges for the department since at least 2021.
The report discussed the need to address of the “long unresolved safety issues,” and “overcoming oversight challenges to reduce surface transportation fatalities.”
“Despite these incidents, the Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST) has more than 86 new unresolved recommendations since President Biden took office,” the letter said.
“These safety failures have eroded the public’s confidence in air and rail safety and necessitates thorough investigation,” the lawmakers continued.
The Republican lawmakers cited data from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which showed around 1,730 runway incursions in 2022 with 1,539 so far in 2023. Separate data from the FAA showed an estimated 1,310 derailments and 146 collisions.
The lawmakers mentioned several collisions or near-collisions between planes and forced emergency landings and other incidents on the nation’s railways, including train derailments – often with hazardous materials — in East Palestine, Ohio, southwest Montana, and Florida’s Manatee County.
Lawmakers asked Buttigieg to provide the requested materials and hold a staff-level briefing no later than Sept. 19.
Earlier this year, the Federal Railroad Administration called for a reevaluation of the “train makeup” amid the series of train derailments, signaling a growing concern with rail safety.
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