Hearing to Resolve Rail Safety Testing Dilemma

The Association of American Railroads' petition for a "common sense" inspection/test interpretation by the Federal Railroad Administration triggered the April 7 public hearing, which was delayed last month by snow.

The Federal Railroad Administration will hold a public hearing April 7 in Washington, D.C., about the Association of American Railroads' petition for a waiver so its member railroads will have relief from FRA's interpretation of the monthly inspection and test requirements for signal systems found in 49 CFR 234.249, 234.251, 234.253, 234.255, 234.257, 234.261, 236.382, and 236.576. These sections specify the inspection frequency for highway traffic signal preemption systems, standby power systems, crossing gate arms, warning systems, flashing light units, and other safety systems.

The hearing was scheduled for Feb. 10, but snow closed federal offices in Washington during much of that week. AAR filed its petition in October 2009, saying the interpretation since 2004 by FRA has been that an inspection completed on a given date must be followed by one no later than the same date of the following month. AAR said the railroad industry long believed it was meeting the requirements by inspecting or testing such systems at any time during each calendar month, and the interpretation is burdensome because of rest days, vacation, sick days, and other responsibilities by signal maintainers. The petition seeks explicit authorization to have intervals of as many as 35 days between inspections and tests, as long as an inspection or test took place each calendar month, without being considered in violation.

The petition is available in this docket folder at www.regulations.gov, where comments may be submitted. The public hearing will be held at the Washington Marriott, 1221 22nd St. NW.

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