RAILROAD / Administrative Rule – Federal Railroad Administration proposes to require railroads to inventory to U.S. DOT all the highway-rail and pathway crossings over which they operate. Key here: Collisions at these sites a major source of railroad negligence tort suits.

New “National Highway-Rail Crossing Inventory Reporting Requirements” 

January 24, 2013, Announcement of Public Hearing and Extension of Comment Period.

This meeting follows up on a Notice of proposed rulemaking issued in the Federal Register October 18, 2012. 

“FRA is proposing to require railroads to submit information to the U.S. DOT National Highway-Rail Crossing Inventory about highway-rail crossings and pathway crossings over which they operate. These amendments, which are required by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA), would require railroads to submit information about previously unreported and new public and private highway-rail crossings and pathway crossings to the U.S. DOT National Highway-Rail Crossing Inventory and to periodically update the Inventory.”  Continue reading

REMARKS – Federal Railroad Administration notice of updated procedures for considering environmental impacts under FRA jurisdiction by adding “categorical exclusions”.

Link to post last Wednesday here

The FRA has revised its Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts to add 7 new additions to the list of categorical exclusions. It did this in consultation with the Council on Environmental Quality. 

Legal take-away:

The 20 exclusions earlier comprising the “categorical exclusions” now have these 7 added to them. 

A major change in what is of course a time-consuming and expensive process preceding the infrastructure projects covered.

RAILROAD / Federal Railroad Administration notice of updated procedures for considering environmental impacts under FRA jurisdiction by adding “categorical exclusions”.

January 14, 2013, Notice of Updated Procedures for Considering Environmental Impacts by Adding Categorical Exclusions.

7 new “categorical exclusions” to the Federal Railroad Administration’s “Environmental Procedures”: 

1. Alteration to facilities, locomotives, etc. “to make them accessible for the elderly and persons with disabilities”.  Continue reading

RAILROAD & SAFETY / Here the Federal Railroad Administration (“FRA”) amends and clarifies certain sections of the final rule, responding to eight petitions for reconsideration received in relation to an earlier FRA final rule published on April 9, 2012 which revised the existing regulations containing safety standards for locomotives.

Who is affected?  Railroads that operate locomotives, other owners (e.g., lessors) of locomotives, manufacturers of locomotives, and locomotive maintenance providers.

(December 19, 2012, Final rule; response to petitions for reconsideration ):

This represents a major revision of locomotive safety requirements. Continue reading

RAILROAD / Positive Train Control – Federal Railroad Administration proposes to expand exceptions to application of FRA’s original 2010 rule that implements mandates of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 requiring certain passenger and freight railroads to install positive train control systems.

Who is affected? Railroad carriers and providers of rail rolling stock (locomotives and rail cars).

December 11, 2012, Notice of Proposed Rule Making ):

This is part of the implementation of Positive Train Control (“PTC”) into U.S. railroads pursuant to the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. This notice of proposed rule making is a Federal Railroad Administration response to a petition for rule making dated April 22, 2011 concerning a final rule and clarifying amendments on this promulgated in 2010. That petition was brought by the Association of American Railroads (which is comprised of the Class I railroads) in what amounts to a course correction in PTC implementation. Broadly speaking, this would revise the de minimis exception to PTC rules in various respects, discontinue those signal systems made unneeded by the installation of PTC systems, and otherwise refine the 2010-promulgated rules. Continue reading

RAILROAD / U.S. Surface Transportation Board entered partial decision on tariff rules for Toxic-by-Inhalation and Poisonous-by-Inhalation freight carried by railroads under their common carrier obligations – Little in the way of clear lines drawn at this stage, STB deferred decisions on (1) priority train requirement, and (2) three TIH/PIH cars per train limit, pending comments that STB seeks from FRA, PHMSA and TSA.

Who is affected? Railroads; shippers of TIH / PIH freight.

(November 28, 2012, Decision of entire Board on petition by C.F. Industries, Inc. and several other chemical shippers and trade associations for the U.S. STB to “declare invalid and unenforceable certain requirements promulgated by RailAmerica, Inc., and several of its railroad subsidiaries regarding rail transportation of [TIH and PIH]”.

“Little in the way of clear lines drawn at this stage”? U.S. STB’s statement accompanying this decision leaves quite a lot unanswered. Continue reading

RAILROAD / FRA Permission Granted for Local Changes in 2 Different Railroad Operations.

The Federal Railroad Administration (“FRA”) has announced that it has been petitioned for various “waivers of compliance” with federal statutes or regulations in two situations of narrow scope during the week of November 12, 2012. This illustrates how such waivers work.  

Who is affected? Of the two set forth below, one applicant is a city seeking to alter railroad locomotive horn usage, and the other application is brought jointly by a Class 3 railroad and labor union seeking to alter hours of service.

Selective – not complete – list from last week:

Continue reading