Legislative Update

FRA issues statement on railroad bridges

The Federal Railroad Administration has issued a final statement of policy that ensures the structural integrity of bridges that carry railroad track. This statement of policy contains guidelines for the proper maintenance of railroad bridge structures. It is meant to be advisory in nature. The owner of a bridge that carries railroad tracks is responsible for compliance. The guidelines provide that a bridge's safe capacity should be determined, loads should be controlled so as not to exceed the bridge's capacity, bridge records should be kept, and bridges should be inspected periodically including underwater inspections where appropriate. A special bridge inspection should be performed after certain occurrences such as a flood, earthquake, derailment or unusual impact.

NTSB report says rail deaths declined in 1999

The National Transportation Safety Board reports that railroad fatalities declined in 1999 while total U.S. transportation-related fatalities remained level compared to 1998. Rail fatalities declined from 831 to 805 on the strength of a large drop in pedestrian fatalities associated with intercity rail operations. However, fatalities occurring on light rail, heavy rail and commuter rail rose from 192 to 218. Deaths among passengers on trains rose from four to 14.

Voters approve high speed rail in Florida

Brother Dave Lavery, SLBC-FL, reports that voters approved a proposed constitutional amendment directing the state and/or private entities to finance the design, construction and operation of a high speed ground transportation system. The system's technology options include high-speed monorail, fixed guideway or magnetic levitation. Approximately three years ago, within the first five days of Florida Governor Jeb Bush taking office, he killed the Fox High-Speed Rail project that was to provide service between Tampa, Orlando and Miami. The voters overturned the Governor's decision.

DOT signs $34 million contract for positive train control testing

The US Department of Transportation has awarded a $34 million contract to a team lead by Lockheed Martin Corporation to develop and deploy a Positive Train Control (PTC) system on a 120-mile segment of the Chicago to St. Louis high-speed rail passenger corridor.

The system will enable Union Pacific's Omaha control center to monitor real time location of trains. When dispatchers authorize train movements over specific routes, computers will assure that operations are safe and will issue movement instruction to trains over the digital radio network. A computer on each locomotive will display the permitted movements to the engineer and stop a train if operations contrary to the dispatcher's plan are attempted.

The contract award is being made through the North American Joint Positive Train Control Program, a partnership between FRA, Illinois DOT and AAR.

AFL-CIO aided working families on election day

Thanks in part to the BLE's participation this year in the AFL-CIO Labor 2000 Program, organized labor was successful in registering more members, educating members on the candidates' positions and mobilizing a bigger get-out-the vote effort than ever before.

Nationwide, labor votes turned around key races and won seats for candidates who backed working families. In addition, union members were able to convince voters to defeat all anti-union state ballot issues, including a number of paycheck deception measures. The success was due, in part, to the hard work by BLE State Legislative Boards and Division Legislative Representatives and the support of the BLE's International Officers.

FRA publishes final rule on power brakes

On January 17, FRA published its final rule on a new Power Brake regulation, three days prior to the end of the Clinton Administration. The final rule is to take effect on April 1, 2001. Therefore, FRA's Power Brake rule is one of the last-minute Clinton Administration regulatory actions that is expected to be reviewed by the new Bush Administration. The next step will be to see what action, if any, the Bush Administration takes following its review of the final rule.

California moves ahead with bullet train plans

Brother Tim Smith, SLBC-CA, reported that the dream of a bullet train advanced when California's High Speed Rail Authority awarded contracts for engineering and environmental studies. These studies will examine how a statewide high-speed rail network between the Bay Area and Los Angeles can be built. The studies are part of a $25 million, three-year undertaking that will propose a route and station locations for the 700-mile system, as well as recommending how the system will be constructed and operated.

FRA freezes reporting threshold for accidents

The FRA stated that there will be no change in the reporting threshold for 2001. The monetary threshold for reporting railroad accidents/incidents involving railroad property is currently $6,600, and will remain at the same level for the coming year.

Safety advisory issued for intermediate signals

FRA has issued a safety advisory addressing recommended replacement of certain components in Harmon Industries' "Electro Code 4" and "Electro Code 4 Plus" intermediate signal units.

The post-accident investigation of a March 25, 1998, collision of a NS freight train with a Conrail freight train in Butler, Ind., revealed that an intermediate signal in the vicinity of the accident would randomly go dark. While it has been determined that the signal malfunction did not contribute to the accident, the malfunction was further investigated by the FRA, the NTSB and Harmon Industries, manufacturer of the signal control equipment.

The investigation revealed that certain modules in Electro Code 4 and Electro Code 4 Plus intermediate signal units can contribute to intermittent dark signal occurrences. The problem relates to 211S, 211SRP, and 212A modules.

FRA to study remote control data

For the next five years, railroads will indicate whether a remote control device was involved with any accident or incident reported to the FRA. FRA intends to modify existing instructions for accident/incident reporting forms to use the "Special Study Block" (SSB) on the forms to capture (with coded letters) data pertaining to accidents/incidents which involve remote control devices.

2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers