US Rail Defects

Problem

Another round of targeted rail inspections intended to improve public safety and reduce potential dangers associated with the transport of crude oil. NY Inspection teams examined 756 crude oil tank cars, approximately 239 miles of track and 51 switches. Overall, state and federal teams uncovered and addressed three critical defects and 66 non-critical defects.

Inspection teams from the New York State Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration carried out crude oil tanker inspections at the CSX Corporation-owned Selkirk Yard in Selkirk (Albany County) and Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo (Erie County), and at the Canadian Pacific-owned Kenwood Yard in Albany (Albany County).

The inspections focused on track, track hardware and tank car mechanical safety equipment, including wheels and brakes. The teams also performed hazardous materials inspections to ensure that all equipment is in line with regulations, including valves, valve closures, and placards that identify the cargo being shipping. They also checked tank car inspection and pressure test dates.

The inspectors examined CP mainline track between Albany (Albany County) and Ballston Lake (Saratoga County), between Ballston Lake and Fort Edward (Washington County), between Whitehall (Washington County) and Willsboro (Essex County), and between Willsboro and the Canadian border. They inspected CSX mainline track between Alden (Erie County) and North Chili (Monroe County). They also examined track at CSX's Frontier Yard in Buffalo.

During the inspections, two types of defects are identified – critical and non-critical. Critical defects identify important maintenance issues that must be addressed immediately, but do not necessarily indicate safety lapses. Non-critical rail defects must be repaired within 30 days, while all tank car defects must be fixed before the train departs the yard. If that is not possible, the affected car must be pulled from the train to await repair.

New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll said, "Public safety is our top priority and we are pleased to join with the Federal Railroad Administration under Governor Cuomo's direction to ensure our rail cars and tracks are held to the highest safety standards. It is critical that the infrastructure used to transport dangerous crude oil through New York State is kept in good condition and that any safety issues are quickly found and corrected."

Tank Car Inspection Results

Kenwood – At the Kenwood Rail Yard in Albany, rail equipment inspectors from the Department of Transportation examined 110 crude oil tank cars and found eight non-critical defects, including worn or broken brake shoes and a shelled wheel.

Selkirk - At the Selkirk Yard in Selkirk, hazardous material inspectors from the Department of Transportation examined 218 crude oil tank cars and found no defects.

Frontier – At the Frontier Rail Yard in Buffalo, rail equipment inspectors from the Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration examined 221 crude oil tank cars and found 16 non-critical defects, including worn or broken brake shoes, air brakes not in effective operating condition, malfunctioning coupler levers, missing coupler knuckle pin, a side ladder with obstructed tread, a side ladder with improper clearance and running board extensions that were not properly braced. Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration hazardous material inspectors examined 207 crude oil tank cards and found two non-critical defects, including worn or missing brake shoes and a damaged hazardous materials placard.

Track Inspection Results

Canadian Pacific Mainline Track Inspection – Albany to Ballston Lake – Federal Railroad Administration track inspectors examined approximately 37 miles of track and two switches along the CP mainline between Albany and Ballston Lake and found 18 non-critical defects, including loose bolts and wedges, failure to properly locate/maintain emergency notification signs at crossings and failure to install permanent rail anchorage details.

Canadian Pacific Mainline Track Inspection – Ballston Lake to Fort Edward – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 32 miles of track and five switches along the CP mainline between Ballston Lake and Fort Edward and found three critical defects, which were repaired immediately. These included having less than (the minimum required) two bolts per rail end at a joint; and the presence of a cracked joint bar. They also found two non-critical defects, including loose adjustable rail braces at a switch and loose bolts at a switch transition device.

Canadian Pacific Mainline Track Inspection – Whitehall to Willsboro – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 63 miles of track and three switches along the CP mainline between Whitehall and Willsboro and found five non-critical defects, including loose clip and guard bolts and failing to properly locate/maintain emergency notification signs at crossings.

Canadian Pacific Mainline Track Inspection – Willsboro to Canadian Border – Federal Railroad Administration track inspectors examined approximately 53 miles of track and six switches along the CP mainline between Willsboro and the Canadian border and found no defects.

CSX Track Inspection – Alden to North Chili and Frontier Yard – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 49 miles of track and 24 switches along the CSX mainline between Alden and North Chili, as well as three miles of track at the CSX-owned Frontier Yard in Buffalo and found 11 non-critical defects, including less than two bolts per joint, loose adjustable rail braces and loose bolts.

Frontier Yard – Federal Railroad Administration inspectors examined approximately two miles of track and 11 switches at the CSX-owned Frontier Yard in Buffalo and found four non-critical defects, including loose bolts, missing cotter pins and an insecure switch heel.

Following a series of out-of-state disasters involving the transport of crude oil by rail, New York State has taken a series of aggressive actions to improve the safety and reliability of the practice.

To date, state agencies have begun to implement all 12 state government recommendations and have completed five. Specifically, New York State has taken 66 actions to better prepare state and local responders in the event of a crude oil incident as detailed in a December 2014 progress report.

The state budget provided for eight new employees at the Department of Environmental Conservation and six at the Office of Fire Protection and Control dedicated to oil spill planning, training and response. The budget also increased fees for oil transported through New York to 13.75 cents per barrel from 12.25 cents for oil imported into the state, and 1.5 cents for transshipped oil, irrespective of whether the oil remains in New York or is transferred on to another State. In-state end users will be exempted from the fee increase and will remain at 12.25 cents per barrel.