October 21, 2014

104-year-old bridge presents $900M problem

It carries more passenger trains than any other railroad bridge in the Western Hemisphere, yet few people beyond those who rely on it have heard of it. It goes largely unnoticed, unless something goes wrong, which happens with irritating frequency. After all, the bridge is 104 years old. Every time it swings open to let [...]

Crude oil train safety regulator steps down

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The head of the federal agency tasked with improving the safety of crude oil transportation by rail is stepping down. Cynthia Quarterman, who has led the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration since 2009, will leave an agency that recently proposed sturdier construction standards for tank cars carrying flammable liquids such as crude oil and [...]

NTSB examines recent surge in rail worker deaths

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WASHINGTON – The National Transportation Safety Board Sept. 24 issued a special investigation report on the recent increase in deaths of railroad and rail transit roadway workers on or near tracks and made recommendations to reduce the number of fatalities. The Special Investigation Report on Railroad and Rail Transit Roadway Worker Protection provides details of [...]

Feds delay alcohol, drug regs for MOW workers

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Federal regulators are putting the brakes on new alcohol and drug regulations for railroad maintenance workers. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) proposed new testing requirements for railroad track workers in July but said Wednesday (Sept. 24) it is extending the comment period at the request of industry groups. Read the complete story at The Hill.

Education, strength and unity – we’ll fulfill our mission

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Thanks to all of the delegates, members, guests and staff that made the First SMART General Convention a resounding success. I have been involved in this union for 45 years. There has never been a more outspoken, honest, and hardworking General Executive Council than the one we have now. They do what is right for [...]

N.Y. MTA proposes $32 billion in capital investments

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority yesterday (Sept. 23) published a proposed $32 billion, four-year capital program designed to invest in safety and reliability measures for its subways, commuter railroads, buses, bridges and tunnels. Proposed for 2015 through 2019, the program would “renew, enhance and expand” the MTA network, which moves 8.7 million riders each day, authority [...]

Report: Hazardous chemicals not on trains’ cargo lists

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At least 18 times in the past three years BNSF Railway freight trains rolled west out of Minneapolis pulling cars filled with hazardous chemicals that were not on the train’s official cargo list, according to train crew complaints. That’s contrary to federal regulation because in case of an accident, local firefighters can be left in [...]

RRB unemployment, sickness benefits to decrease

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Beginning Oct. 1, 2014, the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) will reduce railroad unemployment and sickness insurance benefits by 7.3 percent, up from the current 7.2 percent reduction, due to federal budget cuts first implemented in March 2013. The adjusted reduction amount is based on revised projections of benefit claims and payments under the Railroad [...]

Class I employment grows during August

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The U.S. Class I workforce continued to grow last month. As of mid-August, the large railroads employed 167,988 people, up 0.5 percent from July’s level and 2.8 percent from August 2013′s mark, according to Surface Transportation Board employment data. On a month-over-month basis, the maintenance-of-way and structures workforce was relatively flat at 37,329 (down less [...]

Newspaper reports on SMART TD’s Risch

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One Bismarck man has ridden the rails from shoveling rock and swinging a spike mallet in the railyard to top official of the country’s largest railway employee union. John Risch has been elected national legislative director of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers. His five-year term starts Oct. 1. Read [...]