Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 30, 2014

Posts in "Rail"

October 28, 2014

Q & A: Former Federal Pipeline Regulator Brigham McCown, Part Two

139286532 445x300 Q & A: Former Federal Pipeline Regulator Brigham McCown, Part Two

It isn’t just oil that is transported by rail: here’s a chlorine tanker car in Virginia (Photo: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

Here is part two of our interview with Brigham McCown, the former acting head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. (Click here for part one)

From the data, is it clear that one mode of shipping oil is safer? Is it clear that pipelines are safer than rail?

Government data suggests that pipelines do have a slight advantage, but the caveat there is all modes are extremely safe and PHMSA obviously regulates vessels, rail, trucks, aircraft, as well as pipelines, the whole transportation spectrum.

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NTSB Cites Sleep Apnea in Fatal Train Accident

452759101 445x296 NTSB Cites Sleep Apnea in Fatal Train Accident

Four passengers were killed when a Metro-North train commuter derailed in The Bronx on Dec. 1, 2013. (Photo by Christopher Gregory/Getty Images)

The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday the probable cause of a commuter rail accident that killed four people in New York City last year was the engineer having fallen asleep “due to undiagnosed severe obstructive sleep apnea.”

The engineer’s sleep apnea was made worse by a recent schedule change, which had him starting work at 4 or 5 a.m.

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October 24, 2014

A Look Back: Congestion Pricing, Fuel-Efficient Planes & Sand For Fracking

452912796 445x317 A Look Back: Congestion Pricing, Fuel Efficient Planes & Sand For Fracking

Falling prices for jet fuel won’t hurt demand for Boeing’s new fuel-efficient 787 airplanes, CEO Jim McNerney said this week. (Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP/Getty Images)

This week we took a look at congestion pricing, tolls that vary with the amount of traffic on a particular stretch of highway.

Can that market-based strategy reduce gridlock in some cities where it is most needed?

The problem: older highways such as the Schuylkill Expressway in Philadelphia, one of America’s most congested roads, have no adjacent space to add a new toll lane.

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Friday Q & A: Former Federal Pipeline Regulator Brigham McCown, Part One

81089067 445x290 Friday Q & A: Former Federal Pipeline Regulator Brigham McCown, Part One

Gasoline tanker cars parked at a refinery in California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Brigham McCown served under President George W. Bush as acting head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHSMA), which regulates shipment of materials ranging from oil to hazardous medical waste.

He also served as chief counsel of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which oversees trucking and buses.

He has formed the Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure, a non-profit that will promote “innovative technologies and safer outcomes for national infrastructure projects.”

Here are some excerpts of our conversation with McCown:

Because of the public’s fear of accidents in shipping crude oil by rail, is more shipment going to shift to pipelines?

In a lot of instances, transportation infrastructure tends to lag the development of areas…. We’re now obtaining oil from locations where we previously haven’t.

While there is a mature pipeline infrastructure system in Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, for example, it’s not unusual that that infrastructure lags behind production in the Bakken.

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By Tom Curry Posted at 11:44 a.m.
Environment, Rail

‘Catastrophic’ Distracted Driving, And Not By a Teenager

169601728 445x295 ‘Catastrophic’ Distracted Driving, And Not By a Teenager

Smoke from a May 28, 2013 truck-train collision in Rosedale, Md. caused by a truck driver’s distracted driving. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

We’re just concluding Operation Safe Driver Week, a joint effort of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

FMCSA notes that nearly 4,000 people are killed annually in large truck and bus crashes.

This week also happens to be National Teen Driver Safety Week, with the familiar warnings to teenage drivers to not text when driving.

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October 23, 2014

Energy Boom – And Sand – Benefit Union Pacific

71222521 445x256 Energy Boom – And Sand – Benefit Union Pacific

A Union Pacific train in Illinois (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

Now is a great time to own a piece of a railroad, judging by the profits announced Thursday by the nation’s largest, Union Pacific.

The railroad, which serves West Coast and Gulf Coast ports and is a major shipper of grain, as well as of coal from Wyoming to power plants, set an all-time record for quarterly profits and for freight revenue, up 11 percent from the third quarter last year.

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October 20, 2014

From Texas To Wisconsin, Voters To Determine Transportation Policy

In two weeks, voters decide which party will control the Senate and House, as well as choosing 36 governors and 6,049 state legislators.

In some places voters will also be making transportation policy directly through ballot initiatives and referenda.

A common factor in three states, Texas, Maryland and Wisconsin, is the attempt to ensure that some tax revenues are used only for transportation and aren’t diverted to other purposes.

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The Week Ahead: Distracted Teen Drivers, Earnings Reports & Another Ebola Hearing

170795739 273x335 The Week Ahead: Distracted Teen Drivers, Earnings Reports & Another Ebola Hearing

Boeing CEO Jim McNerney will discuss his company’s third quarter earnings on Wednesday. (Photo: Eric Piermont/AFP/Getty Images)

This week we’ll be watching the Ebola effect on commercial aviation as tighter screening proceeds at five U.S. airports and as the political debate continues over a ban on issuing visas to would-be visitors from three Ebola-affected countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Some earnings reports out this week will also give an indication of the health of the transportation sector.

Full story

October 17, 2014

A Look Back: Autonomous Vehicle Scenarios, 2014 Campaign and Pets on Trains

489579995 1 445x283 A Look Back: Autonomous Vehicle Scenarios, 2014 Campaign and Pets on Trains

Boarding an Amtrak train in Jacksonville, Fla. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images for Amtrak)

This week we looked at futuristic scenarios for autonomous vehicles on our roads as envisioned by the Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole and others.

If self-driving vehicles become the norm, will that lead to the withering away of mass transit in most metro areas, and traffic lights and speed limits becoming obsolete? We may know in about 30 years. Full story

October 16, 2014

‘Pets on Trains’ Plan Set in Motion

Rail passengers traveling along Amtrak’s busy Northeast corridor could someday bring along a furry, four-legged companion, if a group of Capitol Hill lawmakers get their way.

Tucked away in a passenger rail measure that sailed through a House panel last month is language that would create a pilot program for riders to carry pets aboard some trains, including those running between Boston and Washington. On Sept. 17, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee easily advanced the bill in a voice vote less than a week after it was introduced.

The pet proposal calls on Amtrak to let its customers ditch the pet-sitter and instead travel with their cat or dog in tow. Traveling animal-lovers would have to abide by a few rules of the rails, though, including paying a fee and keeping their pets stowed in carriers as either cargo or carry-on luggage.

The measure closely mirrors the “Pets on Trains Act” introduced last year by Rail subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham, a California Republican. That bill has the backing of The Humane Society, boasts nearly 40 cosponsors and inspired a Senate companion from Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.

But Amtrak passengers shouldn’t prep their pets for travel just yet. Lawmakers’ quick work on the rail measure in September was designed to tee up a broader bicameral debate in the next Congress. In the meantime, riders will have to make do with Amtrak’s own test program that allows pets to ride certain rail routes in Illinois.

October 14, 2014

In Smart Vehicle World, Less Need For Mass Transit?

152766339 445x310 In Smart Vehicle World, Less Need For Mass Transit?

A Google self-driving car (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Picture a brave new world in which commuting to work will be faster and safer and in which traditional mass transit systems will wither away in many cities.

That was the future as sketched by one free-market-oriented transportation expert Tuesday at a panel on autonomous vehicles at the libertarian Cato Institute.

“I think autonomous vehicles will just about completely replace the need for mass transit” in all but the six biggest U.S. cities, said Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow at Cato.

Full story

The Container’s Friday Q & A: Railway Supply Institute’s Tom Simpson, Part Two

174775715 445x296 The Containers Friday Q & A: Railway Supply Institutes Tom Simpson, Part Two

Workers at an oil rig in Watford City, N.D., part of the Bakken oil boom (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Here is part two of our conversation with Tom Simpson, the president of the Railway Supply Institute, about demand for tank cars and the new safety rules proposed by federal regulators.

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October 10, 2014

A Look Back: Ebola Economics, Jihadists With European Passports & Biden On LaGuardia

452534810 445x308 A Look Back: Ebola Economics, Jihadists With European Passports & Biden On LaGuardia

Travelers at Kennedy Airport in New York (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

The risk of Ebola infection and the economic damage Ebola fears could wreak on aviation and tourism were big themes of our week.

As the Obama administration revised its plans to screen air passengers for signs of the deadly infection and as one Ebola-infected patient died in Dallas, some wondered about the efficacy of airport screening. Full story

The Container’s Friday Q & A: Railway Supply Institute’s Tom Simpson, Part One

 

81931675 1 445x289 The Containers Friday Q & A: Railway Supply Institutes Tom Simpson, Part One

Domestic crude has been increasingly shipped by railroad tank cars (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Abundant domestic oil and big harvests mean boom times for U.S. railroads and lots of work for the companies that make rail cars.

Accidents such as last year’s derailment and fire in Lac Megantic, Quebec which killed 47 people have dramatized the tank car safety issue.

We spoke with Tom Simpson, the president of the Railway Supply Institute, which represents rail car manufacturers, about his industry.

Full story

October 9, 2014

Minnesota Governor Wants New Tax For Infrastructure

119043301 445x293 Minnesota Governor Wants New Tax For Infrastructure

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, is running for a second term (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

In a debate Wednesday night, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, proposed a wholesale state sales tax on gasoline to raise revenue to pay for transportation infrastructure. He said the tax would raise close to the $6.5 billion the state needs for infrastructure projects over the next 10 years.

The state already has a 28.6 cents per gallon tax on gasoline.

Full story

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