(SLSI)

Boost Safety Culture With Assessments (and Follow Through), FRA Report Finds

Safety culture improves when railroads participate in Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI)-sponsored safety culture assessments and follow through on recommendations, according to a new report from the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Research, Development and Technology.

Jennifer Mitchell, Deputy Administrator, FRA (Brandon Sloan Photography, ASLRRA)

FRA Deputy Talks CRISI, Crew Size with ASLRRA

Less than a month after being appointed FRA Deputy Administrator, Jennifer Mitchell discussed agency priorities and how small roads can best position themselves for CRISI program grants, among other issues, during the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association’s (ASLRRA) May 1-3 conference and exhibition in St. Louis.

“With thermal detector technology, we can gather more data about the health of brakes on a moving train than can be collected from a visual inspection,” BNSF EVP and COO Matt Igoe reported.

Watch: BNSF Brake Health Pilot Program

BNSF is conducting a pilot safety program approved by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to evaluate the effectiveness of thermal detector technology for monitoring brake health.

BNSF, FRA Automated Track Inspection Dispute in Federal Court

BNSF has filed a Petition for Review with the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, naming the Federal Railroad Administration, FRA Administrator Amit Bose and the USDOT, of the FRA’s March 21, 2022 order (Docket Number FRA-2020-0064 – Request to Expand Automated Track Inspection Program) denying BNSF’s request “to expand an existing waiver of certain requirements of 49 C.F.R. § 213.233 to permit BNSF to broaden its implementation of automated track inspection technologies.”

Federal Judge Halts Mask Mandate for Transportation, DOJ Appeals (UPDATED)

A Florida judge on April 18 struck down a federal mandate requiring mask use on public transportation and at transportation hubs. While railroads were deciding whether to keep the mandate in place until May 3 or make mask-wearing optional, the Department of Justice (DOJ) on April 20 filed an appeal. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is weighing in.

For Amtrak, 4 Challenges to Implementing IIJA Funds: OIG

Amtrak will face four main challenges as it modernizes and expands service with a minimum of $22 billion in Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funding, according to the Amtrak Office of Inspector General (OIG).

An ACS64-led Amtrak Northeast Regional train prepares to depart Penn Station New York, bound for Washington, D.C. William C. Vantuono photo

Biden FY23 Budget Request: $105B for USDOT

President Joe Biden on March 28 submitted to Congress a $5.79 trillion budget plan for fiscal year 2023 that calls for $105 billion to be distributed to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). With an additional $37 billion in guaranteed advance appropriations provided under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL; also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA), the USDOT’s total budget would be $142 billion. Included in the budget for USDOT’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is funding for four new rail-related projects; the Gateway Program’s Hudson Tunnel project in New York and New Jersey, and the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) Silicon Valley Phase II rail project in California are among them.

Jennifer Mitchell, incoming Deputy Administrator, FRA

Jennifer Mitchell Joining FRA

Jennifer Mitchell is moving on from her position as Director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) to join the Federal Railroad Administration in April as Deputy Administrator, DRPT reported on March 11. Jennifer DeBruhl will serve as acting Director starting March 18.

Missouri, South Dakota Release Draft State Rail Plans

The Missouri and South Dakota departments of transportation have issued draft 2022 freight and rail plans for public feedback.

Labor Talks: A Headache But Never a Bore

WATCHING WASHINGTON, RAILWAY AGE MARCH 2022 ISSUE: “The farmer and the cowman should be friends,” wrote Rodgers and Hammerstein for the 1943 musical, Oklahoma! In 1967, Aretha Franklin recorded R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Five gets you 10 that neither friendship nor respect exist at the bargaining table where rail management and labor have been negotiating contract amendments since January 2020.

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