Thursday, February 20, 2014

FRA fields track inspection requests from New Hampshire, North Dakota delegations

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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has been asked by elected officials in New Hampshire and North Dakota to step up track inspections along routes that transport hazardous materials in an effort to insure rail safety to communities along the lines.

 

U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) received a response from the FRA highlighting its inspection records of the rail lines near Casselton.

FRA track inspectors conducted an average of three switch observations per year directly related to all aspects of track safety on BNSF in Cass County between 2006 and 2013. FRA said that overall in North Dakota, since 2006, inspectors have conducted 3,822 track inspections, cited 13,141 defects and written 721 violations.

Sen. Heitkamp said she is following up with the FRA to ask again if the area near Casselton is receiving special attention, given the history of derailments in the area. If the agency is not focused on this area, Heitkamp will reiterate that this area deserves an increased focus.

"It is good to know there have been routine inspections in Cass County, but it is clear that the Casselton area is in need of increased attention considering the number of derailments around the same area," said Heitkamp. "Folks who live near these tracks have been through a lot, and deserve to know that the rails are under close examination and that FRA is doing everything to make sure North Dakotans aren't at risk. At the upcoming Senate hearing on this topic – which I called for – I will press the FRA and other relevant agencies to make this area of track a priority."

In New Hampshire, a delegation consisting of Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01) and U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), are requesting FRA to inspect the Portsmouth and Newington Industrial Tracks in response to concerns from area residents.

The town of Newington planning board is reviewing an application from Sea-3, Inc., to expand its liquefied petroleum gas facility and increase its capacity for off-loading propane from tank cars. Sea-3's proposal would involve increasing the number of rail cars carrying liquefied propane to the Shattuck Way facility. These cars would pass through Newington, Stratham, Greenland and Portsmouth.

In a letter to FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo, the congressional delegation urged the FRA to quickly conduct an inspection on the condition and safety of the Portsmouth and Newington Industrial Tracks, which are owned by Pan Am Railways. Additionally, Rep. Shea-Porter, Sen. Shaheen and Sen. Ayotte requested the FRA attend a local public forum on track safety to address residents' questions on track safety and the impact on the community.

"These communities have raised concerns about the condition and safety of these tracks, and the dangers associated with using them to transport highly flammable material," wrote the delegation. "The safety of these tracks is of paramount importance, especially in light of a recent study of freight train derailments that found that broken rails or track welds are the leading cause of derailments. We ask that the FRA conduct an inspection of the Portsmouth and Newington Industrial Tracks and provide the results to the Town of Newington in an expedient manner, and that the FRA participate in a public forum to discuss track safety."

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