Monday, April 20, 2009

Deferring to Senate, STB delays rail competition hearings

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At the request of two U.S. Senators who hold key committee posts on transportation, the Surface Transportation Board has agreed to indefinitely postpone hearings on rail competitive-access issues that it had scheduled for May 18-19 in Washington.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security, asked the STB in a letter dated April 17 to "refrain from holding hearings to examine policies related to competitive access or bottleneck rates before the Commerce Committee has had an opportunity to conduct its legislative reviews" of issues related to Surface Transportation Board reauthorization.

The STB said its hearing had been planned as "as public forum to allow interested parties to comment on the current issues stemming from the agency's bottleneck and competitive issues decisions, the effect on rates and services these decisions have had, and the possible implications of changing these policies."

Acceding to the Senators' request, the board said in a decision late Friday that interested parties "should withhold written testimony until a new schedule is issued."

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