Along with Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), leaders and members of transportation unions, including TTD and SMART TD, provided compelling testimony to the FRA today, in support of a federal rule that would mandate a minimum of two crew members for all freight train operations.  Read the complete TTD press release here
 
 

Amarillo.com reported that BNSF freight trains collided head-on this morning in the town of Panhandle, Texas, near Amarillo, creating a massive fireball and explosion that prompted a swift  evacuation of Panhandle residents. Injuries and missing persons have been reported; at this time, no details have surfaced regarding those missing, or the number or severity of injuries.  Read the complete story here.  texas train collision Photo courtesy of ABC News.  

two-person_crew The Press of Atlantic City reported that the Maryland Senate voted 32-14 for a measure requiring a crew of at least two people on freight trains in Md. Read the entire story here.

Smith
Smith
Colorado State Legislative Director Carl Smith reports that the Colorado House of Representatives’ Transportation and Energy Committee will hear public testimony on House Bill 1136 (H.B. 1136). H.B. 1136 is the state’s two-person crew bill for freight trains operating within the state. The hearing will be held Thursday, Feb. 25, at 10 a.m. at the Colorado State Capitol, 200 E. Colfax, Denver, CO, in room 0112. “Members are encouraged to attend the hearing and show their support for this important safety bill,” Smith said. “Colorado residents can use corailsafe.com to contact their state legislators and encourage them to support H.B. 1136 for safety.”

PA House of Reps Seal Pennsylvania State Legislative Director Paul Pokrowka reports that the Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee will be conducting a public hearing on House Bill 1797 – the state’s two-person crew bill – Feb. 4, at the SEPTA Headquarters, 1234 Market Street (Mezzanine Level), Philadelphia, PA. The hearing will start at 1:00 p.m.

Pokrowka was instrumental in getting this bill to fruition, having brought the two-person crew issue to the Pa. House of Representatives’ attention almost a year ago. Transportation Committee Chairman John Taylor (R – District 177), has asked Pokrowka to act as a presenter at the hearing.

H.B. 1797 reads as follows:

“(a) No train or light engine used in connection with the movement of freight may be operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least two individuals.

“(b) Any person who willfully violates this section shall be guilty of a summary offense and shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay the following:

  1. not less than $250 nor more than $1,000 for a first offense;
  2. not less than $1,000 nor more than $5,000 for a second offense committed within three years; and
  3. not less than $5,000 nor more than $10,000 for a third offense and subsequent offenses committed within three years of the first offense.

“(c) The provisions of subsection (a) do not apply to hostler service or utility employees.”

Pokrowka encourages all Pennsylvania members to attend this important public hearing in support of H.B. 1797.

Amtrak 054A new survey reaffirms support for expanding passenger rail service in Iowa.

More than half the participants — 56 percent — in a survey conducted by the SMART Transportation Division said passenger rail service in Iowa should increase. Another 77 percent said Amtrak should add service from Des Moines to Chicago, a concept that once had steam but has stagnated for several years due to lack of funding.

Read more from The Gazette.

two-person_crew Legislation to protect communities along rail lines and railroad workers by requiring trains and light engines carrying freight within California to be operated with an adequate crew size received support from the State Assembly with a 51-28 vote.

The bill, authored by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Solano, now goes to Governor Jerry Brown (D).

“Today’s freight trains carry extremely dangerous materials, including Bakken crude oil, ethanol, anhydrous ammonia, liquefied petroleum gas, and acids that may pose significant health and safety risks to communities and our environment in the case of an accident,” Wolk said. “With more than 5,000 miles of railroad track that crisscrosses the state through wilderness and urban areas, the potential for derailment or other accidents containing these materials is an ever present danger. I urge the governor to sign this bill into law, providing greater protection to communities located along rail lines in California, and to railroad workers.”

Read more from Times-Herald News.

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Pokrowka

Transportation Division Pennsylvania State Legislative Director Paul Pokrowka asks that all members from the state call their Republican house representatives and ask them to support the state’s two-person crew bill.

Representative Jim Marshall (R-Dist. 14) is the prime sponsor of the bill. Marshall serves on the Pa. House Transportation Committee and is chairman of its Subcommittee on Transportation Safety. The language of the bill is out as a memo right now to gain co-sponsors and will be introduced as a bill soon.

The language of the bill currently reads, “No train or light engine used in connection with the movement of freight may be operated unless it has a crew consisting of at least two (2) individuals. Any person who willfully violates this section may be guilty of a summary offense and shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay not less than $250 nor more than $1,000 for a first offence; not less than $1,000 nor more than $5,000 for a second offense committed within 3 years; and not less than $5,000 nor more than $10,000 for a third offense and subsequent offenses committed within 3 years of the first offense.”

Pokrowka reports that the language of the bill cannot require a certified conductor and a certified engineer due to a case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit that held that a state could not require certified engineers or conductors and such state law must be limited to requiring two persons (BNSF v. Doyle, 186 F. 3d 790 (7th Cir. 1999)).

“The bill has a much better chance of passing if the bill is supported by Republicans from the Republican-controlled House,” said Pokrowka. “I feel strongly that we will get this bill out of committee.

“Members should call my office if they need help on what they should say or if they need help finding their legislators.”

Pokrowka’s office number is (717) 234-2475. Click here to find your legislators’ contact information.