Tag Archives: New York City

Slow-moving Train hits truck in Queens

Repost from CBSNewYork
[Editor:  Even very slow-moving trains can become entangled in severe and unpredictable accidents.  Imagine a collision like this in Benicia’s Industrial Park, with nearby businesses and oil storage tanks.  – RS]

Tractor-Trailer Bursts Into Flames After Being Hit By Freight Train In Queens

By Janelle Burrell, July 8, 2015

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The driver of a tractor-trailer is recovering after his truck burst into flames when it was hit by a slow-moving freight train carrying garbage in Queens.

It happened around 1 a.m. Wednesday on Rust Street near 57th Place in Maspeth.

Sources said the truck driver did not see the train approaching the intersection as the train’s operator, who was going about 15 miles per hour, tried to brake and blew his horn to alert the driver, CBS2’s Janelle Burrell reported.

But the train still ended up clipping the truck, dragging the cab a few hundred feet before it came to a stop and burst into flames.

The truck driver, from New Penn Trucking, managing to escape. Crews rushed him from the scene with minor injuries.

“It’s a surprise to me and it’s mind boggling, but I’m glad he walked away from it,” said co-worker Julius Hall. “I’m glad he walked away.”

The train operator walked away unhurt and has been interviewed by police.

The first railroad crossing warning gate was destroyed by the impact. Police say it’s not clear whether it had been working.

The other warning gate on the other side of the intersection appeared operational and was still in the down position when investigators arrived on scene.

CBS2 reached out to the railroad company, New York and Atlantic Railway, but they have not returned a request for comment.

Amtrak crash highlights neglect of busy rail corridor

Repost from the Centre Daily Times, State College, PA

Amtrak crash highlights neglect of busy rail corridor

By Curtis Tate, McClatchy Washington Bureau, May 13, 2015
Amtrak Crash
An aerial photo Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Philadelphia, shows the scene after a fatal Amtrak derailment Tuesday night, in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia. PATRICK SEMANSKY — AP

— The derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia this week has renewed attention to the safety and infrastructure challenges facing the nation’s busiest passenger rail corridor.

As investigators began reviewing the data from the locomotive event recorder and collecting other key pieces of evidence to determine the cause of the derailment, information emerged Wednesday that the train had been traveling around a sharp curve at twice the posted speed when it left the tracks.

The accident coincided with a debate in Washington over funding for Amtrak. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee voted to cut Amtrak’s annual subsidy from $1.4 billion to $1.1 billion. Further, Amtrak’s authorizing legislation expired two years ago and hasn’t been renewed.

Congress funds Amtrak from year to year, making it difficult for the railroad to make needed improvements to aging bridges and tunnels and to the systems that power the trains and keep them out of one another’s way.

“Amtrak’s living on a shoestring,” said Steve Ditmeyer, a former associate administrator for research and development at the Federal Railroad Administration. “Some things are falling through the cracks.”

The seven-car train traveling from Washington to New York derailed after 9 p.m. EDT Tuesday in Northeast Philadelphia. Of the 238 passengers and five crew members on board, seven were confirmed dead Wednesday by Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

The fatalities included a U.S. naval midshipman and an employee of The Associated Press. The chief executive of an online startup company was missing.

As seen from TV news footage and pictures posted to social media, pieces of the train were strewed askew the track, which bends in a sharp curve in Northeast Philadelphia. Part of the train overturned, and one car was reduced to a twisted heap of shredded metal.

“It’s a devastating scene,” National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt said Wednesday morning.

The NTSB confirmed Wednesday afternoon that the train had approached the location of the accident, Frankford Junction, at more than 100 mph. The speed limit there is 50 mph.

Ditmeyer said a Northeast Corridor improvement project in the late 1970s and early 1980s was supposed to straighten out curves, but that got cut from the budget.

Amtrak’s flagship Acela Express has a top speed of 150 mph but rarely reaches it. Numerous curves, bridges and tunnels restrict the speed of all trains on the Northeast Corridor. The speed limit through two tunnels under Baltimore, built in the 1870s, is 30 mph.

According to a five-year plan for the Northeast Corridor published last month, half the line’s bridges were built between 1900 and 1920, and it would take 300 years to replace them at current funding levels.

“These are ancient things,” Ditmeyer said. “They’re well over a hundred years old. They are decaying.”

The twin tunnels under the Hudson River in New York, built in 1910, sustained heavy flood damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Tens of thousands of commuters depend on them every day, and Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman has said they need to be replaced soon.

“I don’t know if it’s seven (years). I don’t know if it’s four or less,” Boardman said in an interview last year. “We’ve got to do it. The nation has to do it. We have to find the money.”

Amtrak is in the process of installing a collision-avoidance system by year’s end on the Boston-to-Washington Northeast Corridor. The system, called positive train control, is designed to prevent trains from exceeding speed limits as they approach curves.

Ditmeyer said the Northeast Corridor was long ago equipped with a system called automatic train control. While that system prevents trains from running past stop signals, it doesn’t correct for excessive speed ahead of curves.

Congress mandated positive train control in 2008 for much of the nation’s rail network, and some lawmakers are floating a three- to five-year extension for its installation.

Unlike Amtrak’s long-distance trains, which are diesel powered, the Northeast Corridor is electrified. But the system of overhead wires and supports that supplies power to the trains dates to the Great Depression.

Amtrak’s five-year plan for the corridor says 62 percent of the overhead wires and 42 percent of the steel supports need to be replaced.

The plan also notes that the economic cost of losing service on the Northeast Corridor could reach $100 million a day. As of Wednesday afternoon, Amtrak service was still suspended between New York and Philadelphia.

Global marches draw attention to climate change

Repost from The San Francisco Chronicle

Global marches draw attention to climate change

By VERENA DOBNIK and MICHAEL SISAK, Associated Press, September 22, 2014
People protest for greater action against climate change during the People's Climate March on September 21, 2014 in New York City. The march, which calls for drastic political and economic changes to slow global warming, has been organized by a coalition of unions, activists, politicians and scientists. Photo: Andrew Burton, Getty Images
People protest for greater action against climate change during the People’s Climate March on September 21, 2014 in New York City. The march, which calls for drastic political and economic changes to slow global warming, has been organized by a coalition of unions, activists, politicians and scientists. | Photo: Andrew Burton, Getty Images

NEW YORK (AP) — Tens of thousands of activists walked through Manhattan on Sunday, warning that climate change is destroying the Earth — in stride with demonstrators around the world who urged policymakers to take quick action.

Starting along Central Park West, most came on foot, others with bicycles and walkers, and some even in wheelchairs. Many wore costumes and marched to drumbeats. One woman played the accordion.

But their message was not entertaining:

“We’re going to lose our planet in the next generation if things continue this way,” said BertGarskof, 81, as a family member pushed his wheelchair through Times Square.

He had first heard about global warming in 1967, “when no one was paying much attention,” said Garskof, a native New Yorker and professor of psychology at Connecticut’s Quinnipiac University.

Organizers said more than 100,000 marched in New York, including actors Mark Ruffalo and Evangeline Lilly. They were joined in midtown Manhattan by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

On Tuesday, more than 120 world leaders will convene for the United Nations Climate Summit aimed at galvanizing political will for a new global climate treaty by the end of 2015.

“My sense is the energy you see on the streets, the numbers that have amassed here and in other cities around the world, show that something bigger is going on, and this U.N. summit will be one of the ones where we look back and say it was a difference maker,” de Blasio said.

Ban agreed.

“Climate change is a defining issue of our time and there is no time to lose,” he said. “There is no Plan B because we do not have planet B. We have to work and galvanize our action.”

The New York march was one of a series of events held around the world to raise awareness about climate change.

In London, organizers said 40,000 marchers participated, while a small gathering in Cairo featured a huge art piece representing wind and solar energy. In Rio de Janeiro, marchers at Ipanema Beach had green hearts painted on their faces.

Celebrities in London including actress Emma Thompson and musician Peter Gabriel joined thousands of people crossing the capital’s center, chanting: “What do we want? Clean energy. When do we want it? Now.”

“This is important for every single person on the planet, which is why it has to be the greatest grass roots movement of all time,” Thompson said. “This is the battle of our lives. We’re fighting for our children.”

In New York, a contingent came from Moore, Oklahoma, where a massive tornado killed 24 people last year, as did hundreds of people affected by Superstorm Sandy, which the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the British meteorological office said was made more likely by climate change.

In Australia, the largest rally was in Melbourne, where an estimated 10,000 people took to the streets with banners and placards calling on their government to do more to combat global warming.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was a particular target of the protesters. Abbott’s center-right coalition has removed a carbon tax and has restricted funding for climate change bodies since coming to power last year.

Associated Press writer Sylvia Hui in London contributed to this report.

Oil tank cars pose a hazard when moving and when parked

Repost from  The Post-Standard, Syracuse, NY (Letters to the Editor)

Oil tanker rail cars pose a hazard when moving and when parked

To the Editor:

Every sports person knows that a moving target is harder to hit than a stationary one. When you can read graffiti on oil tanker cars parked in the train yards in Minoa, and other areas around Syracuse, you know you have a serious safety problem.

Interstate commerce allows Bakken crude-oil rail shipments from North Dakota to “pass” through Central New York State. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., wants the U.,S. Department of Transportation and the Association of American Railroads to reduce the speed limit of these oil tanker trains from 50 mph to 40 mph through Syracuse and other heavily populated areas. Between 200 to 300 tanker cars “pass” through the Syracuse area daily. Presently, the 40 mph speed limit only applies to Buffalo and the New York City area.

These antiquated, poorly designed DOT-111 tanker cars pose a potential danger to the populace and the environment regardless of their speed! This was evidenced by the recent CSX derailment of crude oil tanker cars in Lynchburg, Va.

It doesn’t make one iota of difference if these trains travel at speeds of 40 or 50 mph, as long as they keep “passing” through the Syracuse area. Parking, however, for indefinite periods in small populated communities, like Minoa, is not acceptable.

Are we, Minoa residents, considered collateral damage – dispensable, if an accident, man-made or otherwise happens?

Come on, CSX … move these hazardous oil tankers out of my village; my front yard is not a bomb depot.

M. Claire Crull