FRA Still Working on Adjacent Track Safety Rule Response

The federal agency delayed its effective date to July 2013 but said in a new Federal Register notice that it has not yet completed a response to petitions it received.

Almost six month after the Federal Railroad Administration announced a 14-month delay in its final rule requiring railroads to adopt on-track safety procedures in order to protect employees from being struck by trains or equipment moving on adjacent tracks, the agency is still working to answer two petitions for reconsideration it received.

The current effective date for the rule is July 1, 2013. The final rule was published Nov. 30, 2011.

FRA's latest notice doesn't say when the response will be finished, nor does it outline the issues raised in the petitions, but they are available at www.regulations.gov (dockets numbered FRA-2008-0059-0031 and 0032). One came from the Association of American Railroads and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association. They say FRA departed significantly from the consensus position of the Rail Safety Advisory Committee without good cause, and the rule's costs would substantially outweigh its benefits and would burden all railroads.

The petitioners claim the rule's costs are likely to exceed $100 million annually, largely because of extra manpower the rule would necessitate and train delays, even though FRA estimated the costs would range from $151 million to $213 million over 20 years.

The petition also says FRA’s rule should permit work to resume when the leading end of a train, not the trailing end, has passed the work group. There is no record of fatal accidents involving roadway workers who were struck after the leading ends of trains on adjacent track had passed, AAR and ASLRRA argue.

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