Posts Tagged ‘Federal Railroad Administration’

FRA Proposes Rule on Signal Outages

April 26, 2018

The Federal Railroad Administration is taking public comment through June 22 on a proposed rule that would govern situations in which a signal system is temporarily removed from service.

The proposal would incorporate best practices the railroads already use when they take signals out of service.

This includes revising operating rules that govern hand-thrown switches, putting signals back in operation as quickly as possible, and “avoiding any train meets or any moves requiring the manipulation of switches within the suspension limits.”

The proposal was prompted by a Feb. 4 collision between Amtrak’s Silver Star and a CSX train parked at Cayce, South Carolina, that happened after a CSX crew member failed to restore a switch for the mainline.

The Amtrak train was diverted into the path of the freight. The signal system has been de-activated so CSX could install a positive train control system.

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Sturges Named Deputy FRA Administrator

April 20, 2018

Mathew Sturges has been appointed deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

He previously served as majority staff director of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure where he directed legislative oversight and authorization efforts related to all modes of transportation.

Sturges also served as deputy director of government affairs for the Republican National Committee, as well as director of coalitions for the House Republican Conference.

His duties at the FRA will include serving as a member of the agency’s senior executive management team and working on safety regulatory activities, federal investments in freight and passenger rail, and legislative initiatives to advance the Trump administration’s priorities.

He replaces Heath Hall, who resigned last February.

FRA Head Urges Caution at Crossings

April 19, 2018

The answer to grade crossing safety is pretty easy, the head of the Federal Railroad Administration believes

Ronald Batory

In a newspaper column, Ronald Batory urged motorists and pedestrians to “make safe choices.”

That means watching and listening for signals and not driving around lowered crossing gates.

The column is part of a campaign by the FRA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to raise awareness of grade crossing safety.

The theme of the campaign is “Stop! Trains Can’t.” The campaign got a lot of visibility during radio broadcasts of the recent NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament.

The campaign is using radio, social media and digital advertising to target areas at higher risk for crossing accidents. A special focus is being provided in states where the most dangerous crossings are located.

Batory wrote in his column that train-vehicle collisions are avoidable, but it’s up to motorists to stop because trains cannot stop quickly.

In the meantime, the U.S. Department of Transportation is working with technology companies to add rail-crossing alerts to mobile applications.

Testing is underway of a system to provide warnings to trains when a vehicle is on the tracks.

DOT is also working with Operation Lifesaver on other rail safety education initiatives to encourage drivers to make safe choices at crossings.

GAO Wants Changes to FTA Safety Oversight

April 11, 2018

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report has found strengths and limitations in Federal Transit and Federal Railroad Administration rail safety oversight programs, but was particularly critical of the FTA.

The GAO noted that the FTA has not provided states with the guidance needed to ensure that they develop appropriate and effective transit-rail safety inspection programs of their own.

“In particular, FTA has not provided states with guidance on how to develop and implement risk-based inspection programs,” GAO officials wrote in the report. “Though FTA has said that it will develop such guidance, it does not have a plan or timeline to do so.”

The report said that the FTA has failed to develop a process or methodology to evaluate whether state safety agency enforcement authorities and practices are effective and that without clear evidence that state safety agencies’ enforcement is effective, states and the FTA may not be able to compel passenger-rail operators to fix safety issues.

GAO recommended the FTA create a plan and timeline for developing risk-based inspection guidance for state safety agencies.

It also recommended the FTA develop and communicate a method for how it will monitor whether state safety agencies’ enforcement practices are effective.

As for the FRA, the GOA suggested that it continue to use and update a risk-based model to guide inspections.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, which oversees the FTA and FRA, agreed with the recommendations.

FRA is Hiring

April 9, 2018

The Federal Railroad Administration is looking to fill 100 jobs to, in the agency’s words, “further strengthen and improve the organization’s ability to carry out its safety mission.”

Twenty percent of the positions are in the signal and train control discipline, when the agency said “will further bolster the FRA’s ability to administer the Congressional PTC implementation mandate in a timely and efficient manner.”

FRA Administrator Ron Batory said he is taking a proactive approach to oversee the railroad industry’s efforts to meet a federal deadline of Dec. 31 to have certified positive train control systems in place.

OLI Creates Program for First Responders

April 4, 2018

Operation Lifesaver has announced the launch of a program oriented toward raising safety awareness for first responders.

The program, known as Rail Safety for First Responders, includes an interactive learning program that OLI said “brings attention to the choices first responders often make around tracks and trains and is intended to help them safely traverse highway-rail intersections.”

In a news release, OLI said that although it can take extra caution to navigate a railroad crossing while heading to an emergency, ambulance drivers, law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMTs and dispatchers can mitigate the risk by knowing what to do.

The program was developed with the cooperation of first responders and the e-learning program addresses railroad topics, crossing challenges, safety searches and incident responses.

The Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Highway Administration provided funding for the development of the program.

FRA Seeks Comments on Automation

March 23, 2018

The Federal Railroad Administration is seeking comment from railroad industry stakeholders, governments, and the public on “the extent to which they believe railroad operations can (and should) be automated, and the potential benefits, costs, risks, and challenges to achieving such automation.”

The request for comments was published in the Federal Register on Thursday.

The notice says that although railroads don’t operate autonomous trains, automation already is being used in everything from dispatching to in-cab information systems to remote control yard switching.

“These various systems of automation and technologies have transformed rail operations in recent years, improving railroad operational safety and efficiency,” the notice said.

Comments are being taken through May 7.

Using technology in rail operations is a priority of new FRA head Ron Batory.

“There is so much opportunity we have before us in embracing technology that helps us reduce risk and enhance safety. We have a great opportunity to become a safer mode of surface transportation,” he said in an interview with Trains magazine.

FRA Provides PTC Installation Update

March 22, 2018

The Federal Railroad Administration said this week that positive train control is in operation on 56 percent of freight railroad route miles that are required to have it.

However, PTC is only in use on 24 percent of passenger railroads.

Fifteen railroads have completed installing the hardware for PTC operation while 11 have in place more than 80 percent of the needed equipment. All but three railroads have sufficient spectrum for their PTC needs.

FRA officials met in January and February with executives from the 41 railroads required to have PTC to evaluate the status of PTC installation on each.

“It is the railroads’ responsibility to meet the congressionally mandated PTC requirements,” said FRA Administrator Ronald Batory in a statement. “The FRA is committed to doing its part to ensure railroads and suppliers are working together to implement PTC systems.”

The FRA said its staff is meeting with PTC suppliers to learn more about their capacity to meet demand for railroads’ PTC implementation “in a timely manner.”

APTA Head Says Some Commuter Railroads Won’t Make the PTC Deadline Later This Year

March 21, 2018

The president of the American Public Transportation Association said this week that some commuter railroads are going have a difficult time meeting a federally-mandated Dec. 31 deadline to install positive train control.

“[Transit] agencies are working at their best to advance and meet this deadline,” said Paul Skoutelas. “It is clear that some are going to struggle with it. I think we’re going to see a good number meet the deadline, others that are going to be behind.”

Skoutelas spoke at a news conference during APTA’s 2018 legislative conference, which was attended by more than 500 transit officials.

He said Congress and the public need to understand the complexity involved with making PTC work, which includes working with what work host freight railroads have completed and assuring interoperability with freight lines and Amtrak.

“All of these agencies have had to rearrange their capital budgets to free up money for positive train control,” Skoutelas said adding that money being spent on PTC could have been used for such things as bridge replacement and track rehabilitation.

“It’s a lot to do in a short period of time,” said David Genova, general manager of Denver’s Regional Transit District. “There aren’t very many designers and manufacturers of these systems. The capacity to get all of this work done in a short period of time is incredibly challenging.”

Federal Railroad Administration data showed that as of last Sept. 30 PTC  preparedness among commuter systems ranged from nearly 100 percent to zero.

This week the Department of Transportation said that a more recent report shows that commuter railroads have progressed little in the past three months.

OLI Says Grade Crossing Fatalities Rose in 2017

March 16, 2018

Deaths caused by trespassing on railroad property and at grade crossings rose in 2017, Operation Lifesaver said this week.

Trespassing fatalities jumped by 22.3 percent while those at grade crossings increased by 7.4 percent last year when compared with 2016 figures.

The data came from the Federal Railroad Administration, which said 575 died and 505 were were injured after trespassing on railroad property in 2017.

At grade crossings, 274 were killed and 807 were injured last year.

When comparing 2017 to 2016, total casualties, which includes deaths and injuries, rose 13.3 percent in trespassing incidents while the number of collisions at grade crossings increased 3.1 percent to 2,105 from 2,041 in 2016.

“We are very concerned about the increase in crossing incidents and deaths, and alarmed by the sharp rise in trespass deaths,” said OLI Interim President Wende Corcoran in a statement.
OLI said that the 2017 railroad trespassing casualty rate — deaths and injuries per million train miles — was 1.55, the highest level in the past decade.

The highway-rail incident rate — incidents per million train miles — was 3.01, an increase from 2016.

States with the most crossing collisions in 2017 were Texas, California, Illinois, Florida and Georgia. States with the most trespasser casualties — deaths and injuries combined — in 2017 were California, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and Illinois.