Posts Tagged ‘Kansas’

Kansas DOT proposes two-person crew regulation

Another state is making a two-person freight crew the law of their land.

On July 27, the Kansas State Department of Transportation proposed a regulation that requires railroads that operate in the state to maintain a two-person crew in the lead locomotive.

“Kansas now joins a growing list of states that believe federal inaction on this issue is too great of importance to public safety and our members’ safety,” SMART Transportation Division Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo said in an email to TD members in his state. “The work we have done, the years of relationship building, the local, county and regional meetings where we have presented our case, and above all else, your efforts in your communities have finally paid off.

“Today is the proudest day of my career and, indeed, my tenure as a member of this great union.”

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, said the proposed rule was a needed step to preserve safe functions of the rail industry in the state in a news release announcing the regulation.

“Kansas has faced issues ranging from crew member fatigue to derailments which pose a threat to our safety and security – but by maintaining the current practice of requiring a two-person crew we can ensure the health and safety of Kansas workers,” she said. “This proposed regulation is a commonsense, necessary measure to protect our state’s railroad crew members and keep every community along the tracks safe.”

Exceptions to the Kansas regulation include switching operations, brake testing, safety inspections, or while performing setouts in conjunction with road service.

“The benefits of the proposed rule and regulation is railroad and community safety, including the role two-person crews can play in helping to prevent potential accidents or derailments and in emergency situations,” the state said in its release.

The persistence of Dragoo and the state’s legislative board paid off after more than a decade of work. Dragoo previously helped to persuade legislators to introduce a two-person crew bill, H.B. 6057, back in 2016, but it died while in committee.

“All the outreach by Brother Dragoo, the Kansas SLB, SMART-TD members and other rail workers and concerned parties was instrumental in proving the point that a safe operation is one with a certified conductor and a certified engineer working in tandem with technology playing a supporting, not a supplanting, part,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said. “This realization is one that transcends partisanship and ensures the continued safety of Kansas residents and rail workers.”

Kansas becomes the second state in 2020 to move ahead on a two-person-crew regulation. Washington had a state two-person crew law signed March 30th that took effect June 11th. If the rule goes ahead in Kansas, it would become the 10th state with a two-person crew regulation.

At the federal level, a number of states and rail labor unions continue to engage in a lawsuit against the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in the U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit. The federal agency, led by Donald Trump appointee Ron Batory, has attempted to prevent states from passing laws mandating a minimum train crew size.

A hearing in that case is likely later this year.

Read the Kansas State Legislative Board’s statement on the proposed regulation. (PDF)
Read the Kansas DOT release announcing the proposed regulation. (PDF)

BNSF announces shop closures; 344 jobs to be cut

BNSF announced on Wednesday in a letter to employees that three maintenance shops will be closed in Montana and Wyoming, while additional mechanical department job cuts will occur in Alliance and Lincoln, Neb.; Mandan and Minot, N.D.; Topeka, Kan.; and Superior, Wis.

“In total, approximately 19 salaried and 344 craft positions will be impacted,” the carrier stated. “These adjustments come as the result of long-term structural market changes, most notably in the coal and energy sector, and reduced demand for freight transportation services at the impacted locations.”

The Donkey Creek, Wyo., shop is scheduled to close June 5 while the facilities in Glendive, Mont., and Guernsey, Wyo., are scheduled to close July 7.

The Wyoming facility closures will result in 122 jobs lost. In Topeka, 28 jobs will be cut.

“Closing our facilities and reducing jobs in communities where we’ve had a long-lasting presence is a difficult but necessary decision,” the carrier said.

Follow this link for more details about the layoffs.

Kansas senator delays Amtrak board nominations, wants SW Chief commitment

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R) of Kansas is putting a delay on the consideration by the U.S. Senate of three nominees to the Amtrak Board of Directors and wants a solid commitment from the carrier that the long-distance Southwest Chief route will be preserved.

Amtrak President and CEO Richard Anderson has arranged a meeting later in May with Moran and other senators who represent states that host the daily Chicago-to-Los Angeles route to discuss the Southwest Chief’s future, according to a report published by the Topeka Capital-Journal.

The three Amtrak board nominees are Rick Dearborn, Joseph Gruters and former U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland. SMART TD opposes Westmoreland’s nomination.

The future of the Southwest Chief has been uncertain with Amtrak leadership first targeting it because of Positive Train Control concerns and a proposed “bus bridge” being looked at as an option to avoid placing the technology on some trackage. Last year, U.S. senators had to pressure the carrier to continue the route, which serves many rural areas, through the 2019 fiscal year.

Read the full story on the Topeka Capital-Journal website.

Amtrak says it’ll match funds to keep Southwest Chief route

Amtrak has informed federal, state and local officials along the route of the daily Chicago-to-Los Angeles Southwest Chief that it will provide matching funds to enable a federal grant to be awarded for safety and reliability upgrades in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico, the carrier said in a news release Feb. 27.

The funds available to upgrade the route came after Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed the FY2019 Appropriations Act, which included funding for Amtrak and intercity passenger rail, earlier in the month.

The legislation set aside at least $50 million of its National Network grant for improvements to the Southwest Chief route. Amtrak is using $3 million of these funds to match a $16 million grant successfully sought by these states, counties and cities and awarded to Colfax County, N.M. The grant and matching funds from the partners will result in an investment of more than $26 million in preserving the daily route from Chicago to Los Angeles.

Amtrak and BNSF Railway began community discussions regarding safety and other infrastructure improvements in 2011. Since then, more than $80 million has been committed from U.S. Department of Transportation grant programs, state and local governments, Amtrak and BNSF.

As reported in prior articles published on the SMART Transportation Division website and in the SMART TD News, Amtrak has been considering “bus bridges” on portions of the route or the potential discontinuation of the route altogether.

“We’re glad it’s getting funds to go through Colorado,” said Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith. “We’re supportive of all measures to continuing the Chief’s service through our state.”

Amtrak said in the release that it will use the newly available federal capital funding to continue needed work on the next route segment in New Mexico.

The carrier said in its release it is working on a long-term financial plan with state and local partners to address the unique challenges of the Southwest Chief route, particularly where Amtrak is the only user of BNSF tracks in Colorado and New Mexico.

Kansas gov. signs bill giving SMART TD spot on state transport task force

Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer shakes hands with Tara Mays, executive director of Economic Lifelines, after signing the House Substitute for SB 391 bill creating the Joint Legislative Transportation Vision Task Force on May 16. The bearded man to Colyer’s right is Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo.

Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo reported that the hard work of his legislative board has paid off with the Kansas Legislature passing and Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer signing May 16 the House Substitute for SB 391, establishing the Joint Legislative Transportation Vision Task Force.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those legislators who supported this important step to building a vision for transportation in Kansas with labor at the table,” Dragoo said. “We greatly appreciate the assistance of all of those that voted in favor to pass the task force legislation.”

The task force’s purpose is to evaluate the current condition of the Kansas transportation system; solicit local input on projects; evaluate current uses of the state highway fund; evaluate current transportation funding and determine whether funding levels are sufficient for current and future needs; identify additional necessary transportation projects; make recommendations regarding the needs of the state’s transportation system in the future; and make recommendations on the future structure of the state highway fund as it relates to maintaining the state’s infrastructure.

The bill also includes a list of organizations, including SMART Transportation Division and the AFL-CIO, that will sit on the task force and help to formulate a 10-year plan for the state’s transportation system.

“SMART TD looks forward to being a part of providing the task force with the critical information that they will need to build a vision for the future of the infrastructure system in Kansas,” Dragoo said. “This is the first time in our board’s history that our union will be recognized and enshrined in Kansas statute as a stakeholder in transportation planning for this state.

“Brothers and sisters, that is not by accident. That is our hard work paying off.”

A PDF of the final version of the bill is available on the Kansas State Legislature website.

Victory at hand in Kansas as legislators vote to create transport task force

Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo reports that the hard work of his legislative board has paid off with his state’s Legislature voting to pass the House Substitute for SB 391, establishing the Joint Legislative Transportation Vision Task Force. The bill now heads to Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer (R) for final approval, which he is expected to give.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those legislators who supported this important step to building a vision for transportation in Kansas with labor at the table,” Dragoo said. “We greatly appreciate the assistance of all of those that voted in favor to pass the task force legislation.”

The task force’s purpose is to evaluate the current condition of the Kansas transportation system; solicit local input on projects; evaluate current uses of the state highway fund; evaluate current transportation funding and determine whether funding levels are sufficient for current and future needs; identify additional necessary transportation projects; make recommendations regarding the needs of the state’s transportation system in the future; and make recommendations on the future structure of the state highway fund as it relates to maintaining the state’s infrastructure.

The bill also includes a list of organizations, including SMART Transportation Division and the AFL-CIO, that will sit on the task force.

“SMART TD looks forward to being a part of providing the task force with the critical information that they will need to build a vision for the future of the infrastructure system in Kansas,” Dragoo said. “This is the first time in our board’s history that our union will be recognized and enshrined in Kansas statute as a stakeholder in transportation planning for this state.

“Brothers and sisters, that is not by accident. That is our hard work paying off.”

Click here to read the final bill.

Kan. SLD lobbies for two-person crew law

A railroad labor lobbyists asked the Wellington City Council to give its support to a bill in the state legislature that would require trains to have two people in the cabin while a train is running.

Ty Dragoo told the council at a worksession meeting Monday, railroad workers feel this is a safety issue.

Read the complete story at the Wellington Daily News.

Ty Dragoo is the SMART Transportation Division’s Kansas State Legislative Director.