Category Archives: Bridge inspection

Petition: Ban Oil Trains For Good

Repost from Huffington Post

Ban Oil Trains For Good

By Marc Yaggi, Executive Director, Waterkeeper Alliance, 08/11/2016 03:30 pm ET
2016-08-08-1470664391-409844-13308293_10154299311634165_7880276907808028024_o.jpg
Oil train derailment in Mosier, Oregon in June 2016. Photo credit: Columbia Riverkeeper

Just a little over two months ago, a disastrous oil train derailment occurred in Mosier, Oregon, spilling 47,000 gallons of Bakken crude oil from North Dakota. The fallout from that accident has seen the entire region debating whether transporting this hazardous crude oil by rail through local communities and along our nation’s rivers is worth the risk. It’s time for the debate to close, and for all sides to realize the hard truth: oil trains like the one that derailed in Mosier pose an immediate threat to communities around the country, and it is time we demand immediate action.

Waterkeeper Alliance’s report, Deadly Crossing: Neglected Bridges & Exploding Oil Trains, written in partnership with STAND and Hudson Riverkeeper, showed that many of the bridges these oil trains pass over show signs of neglect and disrepair. The report also highlighted that the public cannot access any meaningful information regarding the safety of rail bridges in their community. In response to these concerns, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) now has a way for local officials to request public bridge inspections. This is a small victory, but the threat of these oil trains still lingers in communities across the country, and the only true solution is to ban these trains altogether.

No community wants a potentially lethal oil train speeding past their schools, behind their homes, or near their precious water sources. We need to stand together to demand a complete ban on oil trains. Please join this petition to call on the Department of Transportation to recognize that oil trains are inherently unsafe for our communities and waterways, and to use all available authority to stop oil train traffic throughout the country.

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    FRA Launches Website for States and Municipalities to Request Bridge Inspection Reports

    Repost from Transportation.gov (US Department of Transportation)

    FRA Launches Website for States and Municipalities to Request Bridge Inspection Reports

    Agency also requests resources to double bridge safety staff, create national database of bridges
    Friday, February 26, 2016

    USDOT-FRAWASHINGTON – The Federal Railroad Administration today launched a new tool on its website that allows states and municipalities to request inspection reports for rail bridges in their communities. The tool is being launched following the passage of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act and is one of the first provisions FRA has implemented. FRA also announced today that it has requested additional resources as part of the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget to double its bridge specialist staff and create a national bridge inventory database and website.

    “Communities across the country will now have access to information on the condition of railroad bridges in their area,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These inspection reports will provide greater transparency between railroads and local leaders, which is an important cornerstone in our comprehensive safety efforts.”

    A state or a political subdivision of a state, such as a city, county, town or municipality, can now use FRA’s website to request information from inspection reports for local bridges via https://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0922. Once FRA receives the request, the railroad that owns the bridge will have 30 days to respond to the request. FRA plans to provide a copy of the report to the requester within 45 days of the original request.

    According to the FAST Act, the following information about the bridge will be included in the report: the date of the last inspection; length of bridge; location of bridge; type of bridge (superstructure); type of structure (substructure); features crossed by the bridge; railroad contact information; and a general statement on the condition of the bridge.

    “The Federal Railroad Administration has repeatedly urged railroads to be more responsive and more transparent with state and local leaders concerned about the condition of their local railroad bridges. State and local officials will now be able to get more information from railroads on the infrastructure in their communities,” FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg said. “Providing inspection reports to local leaders is a great first step, but more can—and must—be done. We hope Congress will provide the resources to double our bridge safety staff and create a national database.”

    The FAST Act addressed the issue after months of Administrator Feinberg repeatedly urging railroads to be more transparent and respond to communities when they have questions and concerns about the condition of rail bridges.

    Last September, the Administrator sent a letter to all railroads saying, “When a local leader or elected official asks a railroad about the safety status of a railroad bridge, they deserve a timely and transparent response. I urge you to engage more directly with local leaders and provide timely information to assure the community that the bridges in their communities are safe and structurally sound.” While addressing, the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee in November 2015, Administrator Feinberg again told railroads that, “When FRA is asked about bridge safety, it’s frequently because, again, the public or a member of Congress become concerned and has tried to get answers from a railroad, and they have been ignored or put off.”

     

     

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      Train safety provisions included in U.S. transportation bill

      Repost from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

      Train safety provisions included in U.S. transportation bill

      By Crocker Stephenson, Dec. 2, 2015
       Bakken oil trains rumble through downtown Milwaukee at 133 W. Oregon St., Milwaukee. A federal bill includes provisions requiring railroads to share safety information regarding trains and bridges with local officials.
      Bakken oil trains rumble through downtown Milwaukee at 133 W. Oregon St., Milwaukee. A federal bill includes provisions requiring railroads to share safety information regarding trains and bridges with local officials. Image credit: Journal Sentinel files

      The mammoth five-year federal transportation bill that lawmakers hope to send to President Barack Obama early next week includes provisions, championed by Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), that would require railroads to share critical safety information with local communities.

      “This legislation provides the transparency we’ve been begging and asking Canadian Pacific railroad for,” Milwaukee Common Council President Michael Murphy said during a news conference Wednesday outside a fire station at 100 W. Virginia St.

      “It isn’t too much to ask a company that is using our public right of way to let us know if their bridges are safe and secure,” he said.

      As if to illustrate Murphy’s point, a Canadian Pacific train pulling oil tankers rumbled across the bridge over S. 1st St. a few blocks to the north.

      Milwaukee is in a rail corridor that ferries crude oil from North Dakota to refineries in metropolitan Chicago and beyond.

      Since spring, Murphy and other city officials have been sparring with Canadian Pacific over its refusal to share with city engineers the results of its inspection of a rusty-looking bridge crossing W. Oregon St. at S. 1st St.

      Canadian Pacific officials have insisted the bridge is safe, but they announced in August that the railroad plans to encase 13 of the bridge’s steel columns in concrete to protect them from further corrosion.

      “Five to six months ago, the Milwaukee Common Council asked for information on bridges,” Ald. Terry Witkowski said. “We were greeted with silence.”

      “With the stroke of a pen, the ball game has changed,” he said.

      Concern over trains hauling potentially explosive fuel tankers through the heart of Milwaukee’s Fifth Ward increased last month when two petroleum-filled trains derailed in Wisconsin in a single week.

      “Wisconsin first-responders should be applauded for their reaction to these derailments,” Baldwin said. “But railroad companies need to do more.”

      According to Baldwin’s office, the bipartisan transportation bill contains several provisions pushed by the senator:

        • Transparency: A provision would require railroads to provide local officials with a public version of the most recent bridge inspection report
        • Real-time reporting: Currently, information about hazardous materials being carried through communities is available to first-responders only after an incident has occurred. A provision would require that information to be shared before a train carrying hazardous materials arrives in their jurisdiction.

      “The thing we need is information,” Milwaukee Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing said. “So the more transparent our haulers become, the more prepared we can be.”

      “Having the city have this information gives the Department of Public Works, our city engineer, access to information so that we can make an evaluation, so we can work with railroads to make sure we have safe rail crossings,” Mayor Tom Barrett said.

      The roughly $300 billion transportation bill would also require the Department of Transportation to initiate a study on the appropriate level of insurance railroads hauling hazardous insurance should have, and it would ask the DOT to require that railroads improve their plans for responding to catastrophic oil discharges.

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