MDOT Delivers “Rail System Safety Report” to Governor LePage

October 9, 2013

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, Oct. 9
Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary, 207-287-2531

AUGUSTA – In accordance with the Executive Order issued by Governor Paul R. LePage dated July 9, 2013, MaineDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt has submitted the “Rail System Safety Report” to the Governor.

The Executive Order, titled “An Order Requiring MaineDOT to Review the Safety of Freight Rail Transportation in Maine,” required MaineDOT to review available Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) rail safety reports; to request reports on Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA) inspections; to use any available information on the cause of the Lac Megantic tragedy to mitigate any safety concerns; and to continue to cooperate with the FRA.

In addition, the report contains the results of a request by Commissioner Bernhardt to Maine’s five freight rail companies about best practices for securing freight trains and emergency orders that have been issued by federal rail safety regulators in Canada and the United States, along with findings and recommendations.

On July 6, 2013 a runaway and unattended freight train operated by MMA carrying 72 cars of crude oil derailed and exploded in Lac Megantic, Quebec, taking 47 lives and destroying more than 30 buildings in the town.

“The tragedy in Lac Megantic forced us to ask tough questions,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “While the results of this report are encouraging, it is paramount that operators of all modes of transportation put safety first for themselves and for all Mainers.”

As the report indicates, while no form of transportation is free from all risk, existing rail safety practices are adequate. A tragedy like Lac Megantic should not occur in Maine if the private railroad operators follow their own safety practices and those of the FRA, which is the agency responsible for rail safety in the United States.

MaineDOT, working in cooperation with the FRA, thoroughly reviewed inspection reports after the Governor’s Executive Order to ensure that the ongoing FRA inspection program in Maine is consistent and concentrated in areas of the highest rail traffic and/or concern. “The tragedy in Lac-Megantic, Quebec has caused everyone to reflect on how our transportation industry can provide the level of railroad safety that the public deserves and expects, while at the same time allowing the efficient movement of goods needed to support our economy here in Maine and across North America,” said MaineDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt. “We have received good cooperation from the freight rail operators in the state that helped facilitate the completion of this report for Governor LePage.”

Federal law governs rail activity, and the FRA provides oversight and enforcement of railroad safety. FRA rules govern all aspects of rail safety including the following five disciplines: track, grade crossings, mechanical/rail equipment, operating practices and procedures, and movement of hazardous materials.

Prior to the Lac Megantic tragedy, there were 1,021 FRA observations performed in 2013 on railroads in Maine across the five disciplines from January through June.

Since the tragedy took place, additional 581 observations have been conducted by FRA and state inspectors. As standard practice dictates, all concerns and defects observed in inspections are documented and forwarded to the railroad being inspected and FRA staff for correction and follow up. During this process, defects were identified, requiring attention by the railroad operators. However, no defects were found that warranted the shutdown of any rail lines in Maine.

“When that horrible event in Lac Megantic happened, we increased the focus on the safety of the rail system in Maine,” said Governor LePage. “But I continue to be optimistic about the steady growth of this industry, which provides good jobs and contributes to the state’s economy.”

MaineDOT, which will closely monitor the investigation into the cause of the Lac Megantic tragedy being conducted by Transport Canada, will continue to work closely with the FRA to ensure that there are timely safety inspections of Maine’s rail infrastructure throughout the state.

To view the “Rail System Safety Report”, click on this link: