Rail Track Defects Found and Corrected Throughout New York State
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the successful completion of another round of targeted rail inspections intended to improve public safety and reduce potential dangers associated with the transport of crude oil across New York State. Inspection teams examined approximately 251 miles of track and 91 switches. Overall, state and federal teams uncovered and addressed three critical defects and 24 non-critical defects.
“Vigilant rail track inspections are critical to keeping our communities safe across New York,” Governor Cuomo said. “Our rigorous inspection schedule enables us to detect and quickly address defects to protect the well-being of those who live and work near rail tracks.”
Inspection teams from the New York State Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration examined CSX mainline track between Chili (Monroe County) and Macedon (Wayne County); between Weedsport (Cayuga County) and Lyons (Wayne County); between Chili and Alden (Erie County), between Fonda (Montgomery County) and Rome (Oneida County); between Westfield (Chautauqua County) and Silver Creek (Chautauqua County); and between Catskill (Greene County) and Kingston (Ulster County).
Canadian Pacific-owned mainline track was examined between Albany (Albany County) and Watervliet (Albany County); between Willsboro (Essex County) and Rouses Point (Clinton County); and at the Kenwood Yard in Albany.
The inspections focused on track and track hardware. Although crude oil train traffic is down significantly since the highs of 2014, state and federal inspectors remain vigilant, regularly examining tracks, facilities and available crude oil unit trains.
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.
New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll said, “New York State is a leader in rail safety thanks in no small part to our continuing program of regular inspections. We will continue to work with our federal partners to further Governor Cuomo’s mission to improve the safety of transporting volatile crude oil through New York State.”
Since Governor Cuomo initiated this targeted inspection campaign in February 2014, the Department of Transportation and its federal partners have inspected 13,011 rail cars, including 11,003 crude oil tank cars, and 4,891 miles of track, uncovered 1,695 defects, and issued 20 hazardous materials violations.
Track Inspection Results:
- CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Chili to Macedon – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 45 miles of track and seven switches along the CSX mainline between Chili and Macedon. They found one critical defect – having a chipped tread portion of a switch transition device – which required a temporary speed reduction. They also found one non-critical defect, failure to conduct a rail weld in a timely manner.
- CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Weedsport to Lyons – Federal Railroad Administration track inspectors examined approximately 26 miles of track and seven switches along the CSX mainline between Weedsport and Lyons. They found six non-critical defects, including missing cotter pins, missing adjustable rail brace and loose bolts on a switch transition device.
- CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Chili to Alden – Department of Transportation inspectors examined approximately 41 miles of track and 24 switches along the CSX mainline between Chili and Alden. They found four non-critical defects, including loose guard rail bolts, insufficient fasteners in a segment of track, and a missing bolt on a switch transition device.
- CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Fonda to Rome – Department of Transportation inspectors examined approximately 62 miles of track and eight switches along the CSX mainline between Fonda and Rome. They found one non-critical defect, a missing bolt on a switch transition device.
- CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Westfield to Silver Creek – Federal Railroad Administration track inspectors examined approximately three miles of track and 17 switches along the CSX mainline between Westfield and Silver Creek. No defects were identified.
- CSX Mainline Track Inspection – Catskill to Kingston – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately 17 miles of track and six switches along the CSX mainline between Catskill and Kingston. They found two critical defects, including an improperly located fastener, which was repaired immediately. They also found three non-critical defects, including loose bolts on a switch transition device, loose adjustable rail brace at the switch, and fouled ballast.
- CP Mainline Track Inspection – Albany to Watervliet – Department of Transportation track inspectors examined approximately six miles of track and four switches along the Canadian Pacific mainline track between Albany and Watervliet, as well as one mile of track and 13 switches at Canadian Pacific’s Kenwood Yard in Albany. They found eight non-critical defects, including loose guard rail bolts, loose bolts on a switch transition device, loose adjustable rail brace at a switch, and insecure heel blocks.
- CP Mainline Track Inspection – Willsboro to Rouses Point - Federal Railroad Administration inspectors examined approximately 50 miles of track and five switches along the mainline track between Willsboro and Rouses Point. They found one non-critical defect involving a switch point in Plattsburgh.
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.
In 2014, at the direction of Governor Cuomo, the New York State Departments of Environmental Conservation, Transportation and Health, along with the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and the Energy Research and Development Authority conducted a coordinated review of safety procedures and emergency response preparedness for crude oil shipments. The agencies issued a report in April 2014 containing 27 recommendations for state and federal government and industry to take to reduce risks and increase public safety in the transport of crude oil.
In addition, Governor Cuomo's 2015 Opportunity Agenda and the 2015-16 New York State Budget included several measures to further prevent and prepare for potential crude oil incidents. These include providing the necessary funding for staff and associated preparedness costs by increasing the Oil Spill Fund cap to $40 million from $25 million and allowing up to $2.1 million of the Fund annually to be used for prevention and preparedness measures. These changes support compliance with Governor Cuomo's Executive Order 125, which outlines steps the state is taking to improve oil spill response and prevention.
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.
Governor Cuomo also initiated the hiring of five new Department of Transportation rail safety inspectors, which has allowed the Department of Transportation to increase its capacity to perform rail safety inspections across the state.
Other state actions include:
- Urging federal authorities to revise design specifications and expedite the phase-out of older, unsafe rails cars; implement more stringent standards to test crude oil; and review the routing of crude oil to ensure the most appropriate routes;
- Issuing fines to companies that fail to comply with state regulations related to derailments;|
- Calling on federal authorities to expedite and strengthen rail safety standards and increase inspections;
- Increasing the Oil Spill Fund cap from $25 million to $40 million and allowing up to $2.1 million of the Fund annually to be used for prevention and preparedness measures.
State and emergency response officials also participated in more than two dozen training exercises last year to better prepare our communities for potential crude oil disasters.