Train derailment causes major delays north of Fort Worth
By: Josiah Sage, Aug 21 2016 07:50PM CDT, updated Aug 22 2016 08:59AM CDT
Crewmembers believe a bridge failure caused more than 26 rail cars on a Union Pacific freight train to derail north of Fort Worth Sunday night.
It happened around 6 p.m. as the train was traveling over a bridge near Highway 377 in Roanoke. No one was hurt, but five of the train cars ended up in Denton Creek.
Union Pacific said the train was carrying coal, so nothing hazardous spilled into the creek. But it will still take some time to clean up the mess.
“There’s a lot of work that’s been done, a lot of work that’s been done since overnight. When I went on scene just moments ago you could see the big construction equipment tearing apart the rail cars. I guess instead of lifting and removing them they just crushed them and they are in pieces,” said Det. Sandy Pettigrew with the Roanoke Police Department.
The derailment is still causing some traffic problems on Hwy. 377 between FM 1171 and Bobcat Boulevard. The highway is expected to be closed most of the day and that will likely affect traffic heading to the nearby Byron Nelson High School.
Repost from CNN Poilitics [Editor: An excellent report, with 2 more in the series yet to come.
NOTE: I was unable to embed the videos on this page. Clicking on a video will take you to the CNN page where you can click on the videos. – RS]
By Rene Marsh, David Gracey and Ted Severson, May 26, 2016 8:23 PM ET
Washington (CNN) – Nearly 40 million Americans will kick off one of the busiest travel seasons in history this Memorial Day weekend, jarred by potholes on America’s roads, crossing her aging bridges, riding her antiquated railways and taking off from airports that draw international scorn.
Long a source of national pride, America’s infrastructure is in critical need of repair, but federal government spending on the issue has gone down 9% in the past decade. As former Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood says, “We’re like a third-world country when it comes to infrastructure.”
CNN aviation and regulation correspondent Rene Marsh investigates the state of the country’s bridges, railways, airports and pipelines in a four-part series: America’s Crumbling Infrastructure. Check back here from now through Monday.
Part 2: The busiest rails shut down by failing power cables
The Portal Bridge in New Jersey is the most heavily trafficked rail span in the Western Hemisphere. Connecting New Jersey to New York City’s Penn Station, an estimated 450 trains cross it every 24 hours.
Below — sometimes not much more than 25 feet down — is the Hackensack River, itself a busy thoroughfare for boats and barges. To accommodate both, the Portal Bridge operates on a swing-span, allowing it to open for watercraft, then close up again to complete the rail path.
“The problem we have is that, as it swings back, those miters don’t always come down right, because this thing is so old,” explains Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman.
And when those “miters” don’t line up correctly, train traffic grinds to a halt.
“So then you have to get crews out here,” Boardman says. “That holds up a lot of trains, no matter what time of the day it is.”
The Portal Bridge, like so much of America’s archaic and often wonky infrastructure, was designed in the 19th century and built more than a hundred years ago.
But funding for an overhaul, or the construction of a new passage, remains elusive. An Amtrak estimate from 2013 puts the cost at just under a billion dollars.
Less than nine miles east, the tunnel that connects Jersey City to Manhattan is cracked and crumbling.
The 106-year-old Hudson River Tunnel connects more than 230,000 commuters daily, but in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 it has been plagued by power failures, causing shutdowns and days-long delays.
“This salt is eating away at the concrete, it’s eating away at the rails, it’s eating away at the cables that go through here for power,” says Boardman, who describes it as one of the most disturbing examples of an infrastructure system long ignored or deprived of needed maintenance.
The price of renewing and safeguarding the web of railways that runs up Amtrak’s “Northeast Corridor” — more than 450 miles — stands at an estimated $20 billion.
The cost for passengers has been steeper.
In May 2015, an Amtrak passenger train traveling more than twice the 50 mile per hour speed limit jumped the tracks in Philadelphia. Eight people were killed and more than 200 riders were injured.
The deadly derailment might have been prevented if the tracks had been fitted with a technology called “Positive Train Control,” an innovation that automatically slows speeding rail traffic.
So what’s taking so long?
“It takes time to make sure it works right,” Boardman says. Across the country, 30 freight and passenger train accidents, 69 deaths, and more than 1,200 injuries could have been prevented had the technology been in place.
With Congress tied up in partisan knots over new spending, the bullet trains of Japan — which cruise at over 200 miles per hour and could cut in half the travel time between Boston and Washington, D.C. — seem a long way off. Implementing a similar system would come with a price tag exceeding $151 billion.
“You want to be able to show the benefit of the dollar you invested,” Transportation Department head Anthony Foxx tells CNN. “I think members of Congress struggle, because (these projects) actually require longer than a political term to take root.”
Short term thinking leads to long term trouble, and for the busiest strip of track in the Americas, the crumbling is becoming more difficult — and dangerous — to ignore.
Part 1: Bridges supported by crumbling 90-year-old beams
Nearly 60,000 bridges across the country are in desperate need of repair. One example is just down the street from the White House and Capitol Hill. In the nation’s capital, 68,000 vehicles cross the Arlington Memorial Bridge between Washington and Virginia every day. CNN was granted rare access to go inside the crumbling bridge.
“It’s just eroding and concrete is falling off,” said National Park Service spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles as she showed how the original support beams from 1932 are corroding. The beams have never been replaced, and the bridge could be closed to vehicle traffic within five years if it isn’t fixed. It’ll cost $250 million.
Go inside the corroding Arlingon Memorial Bridge
In 1932, as the Arlington Memorial Bridge was being erected, Congress was dealing with the Great Depression. That same year, President Herbert Hoover enacted the first federal gas tax at 1 cent per gallon. The gas tax is a major source of funding for bridges and roads that has been raised periodically until 1993, when it was set at 18.4 cents per gallon.
Although the gas tax has remained steady, cars have become more efficient and overall federal government spending on infrastructure has declined 9% from 2003-14, according to the Congressional Budget Office. According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, every state has some degree of bad bridges that need to be repaired. In Los Angeles, CNN found trees growing out of cracks in a bridge. In Chicago, netting is in place to protect drivers from falling concrete.
LaHood was a rare Republican who served in President Barack Obama’s administration. He says there’s an easy way to fund upgrades to an infrastructure system that has become “third-world”: Raise the gas tax. LaHood and others blame Congress for failing to raise the gas tax in 23 years.
Republican Rep. Bill Shuster, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said raising the gas tax “doesn’t solve the long-term funding problem.” But Congress has not yet come up with a solution.
Beyond funding, there is another issue: how to make the bridges better. Researchers at the University of Michigan believe they may have a fix: bendable concrete that can heal itself from cracks.
Demonstration in the university’s engineer lab shows regular concrete can fail quickly and suddenly. Professor Victor Li, who developed the technology over the past 10 years, said the bendable concrete can withstand a force hundreds of times more powerful than standard concrete. The researchers’ hope is that it could help already crumbling bridges, like the Memorial Bridge near the nation’s capital.
But new concrete is expensive. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, bridge infrastructure investment needs to be increased by $8 billion annually. The society said that increase would address the estimated $76 billion in needs for deficient bridges across the United States.
Repost from the Minneapolis Star Tribune [Editor: On October 8, 2015, the Star Tribune published Barbara Draper’s incredible, wonderful, beautiful, moving – and frightful – poem, “Oil Trains.” The Star Tribune gave it their own title, “Slithering into Minneapolis.” Published here with permission from the author (and reformatted to her specifications). – RS]
A slithering line of obsidian tank-cars
from craven North Dakota
quakes the freshwater lakes of Minnesota,
then stuns the Mississippi.
Now on a neighborhood street in Minneapolis
it rumbles overhead —
over a bridge whose stanchions are stamped 1920.
Concrete crumbled off.
Ninety year-old steel shoulders the load.
I hold my breath against the ghost
like I did as a kid riding my bike past the cemetery.
Crows of unacknowledged intelligence …..Caw …………. ….and dive
as though raptors were invading their nests.
Calling all kayaktivists and more: Crude oil pipeline on rails threatens our waterways
By Citizens Acting for Rail Safety and Milwaukee Riverkeeper, September 12, 2015 07:35
The dangers of shipping crude oil over and along our waterways will be highlighted by clean water advocates gathering at the confluence of the Menomonee and Milwaukee Rivers, near the railroad swing bridge.
This bridge is one of many in the metro area where trains carrying volatile crude oil cross or travel near local rivers. The railroad system was not laid out with this kind of cargo in mind. Nationally, oil train traffic has increased more than 4,000 percent in the past five years, and oil trains are also much longer, which concentrates the risk of an accident, especially in urban areas.
Crude oil trains threaten the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinic Rivers and Lake Michigan.
After decades of clean water work, we are alarmed to see an oil pipeline on rails emerge in our metro area. Work to improve water quality and wildlife habitat has also been an essential part of the revitalization of many parts of Milwaukee including the Third Ward, Menomonee Valley, and the Milwaukee River Greenway, and is critical to success of new efforts to develop the Inner Harbor..
An oil spill would have serious environmental and economic consequences.
Citizens have many questions about emergency response plans if a crude oil train were to derail and oil spill into waterways. Many oil trains — some with 100 cars of more — contain the same quantity of oil as an oil tanker, but are not required to have the same level of spill response plans or safety precautions.
Who would respond?
How would this oil be contained and cleaned up?
What would happen in winter when there is ice cover and oil spill recovery becomes nearly impossible?
How would seiche currents impact clean up efforts?
What are the implications for our drinking water and quality of life?
Please join clean water advocates for a visibility event highlighting the danger oil trains pose to our waterways.
When: Sunday, September 13, 3 p.m.
What: A gathering of kayaks, canoes and banners. Paddlers and other clean water supporters will join in singing and drumming with the One Drop ensemble of Jahmes Finlayson and Dena Aronson. Dona Yahola will begin the event with an Ojibwe water prayer and song.
Where: Participants will be near the Railroad Swing Bridge at the Confluence of the Menomonee and Milwaukee Rivers. Convergence at the Confluence. Third Ward Riverwalk.