Governor LePage Seeks Improved Safety on Maine’s Rail System
July 17, 2013
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, July 17
Contact: Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary (207) 287-2531
AUGUSTA – In conjunction with the Executive Order to review the safety of freight rail transportation issued by Governor Paul R. LePage, the LePage Administration is going one step further to assure safety along Maine’s railroads.
Maine Department of Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt sent a letter Wednesday (see link below to read letter)to five freight railroads operating in Maine requesting review and submission of best practices regarding the securing of parked freight trains. The request is in addition to the department’s safety review, which was ordered by Governor LePage by Executive Order on July 9 (see official documents page).
“While the investigation continues into the cause of the derailment, I want to do everything we can to ensure the safety standards of Maine’s rail system,” said Governor LePage. “Maine people expect that a key part of our infrastructure has the proper oversight and transparency.”
While acknowledging that the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) is the primary regulator of rail safety in the United States, by this letter MaineDOT seeks to establish a voluntary, proactive effort to establish reasonable and common sense practices that address the risk of runaway freight trains.
“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,” Commissioner Bernhardt wrote. “Although no one should jump to conclusions regarding exact causes of the derailment on July 6th, the very existence of a high-speed, runaway freight train carrying volatile materials indicates that certain railroad safety practices can be established, improved, or communicated.”
Specifically, the Commissioner asked the freight rail operators in Maine to submit existing or proposed policies or practices that relate to securing parked trains including, but not limited to, parking locations, setting of hand brakes, monitoring of trains, timing of crew changes and security.
“We want to continue our productive partnership with the rail industry in Maine, while ensuring that safety is the top priority of all of us, whether we work in public service or private industry,” said Commissioner Bernhardt.
On Monday, July 8, Governor LePage met with MaineDOT officials to review the latest information on the events in Lac-Megantic, and to review railroad safety protocols. View the Executive Order here.
A train carrying crude oil from North Dakota to Saint John, New Brunswick derailed in the early morning hours of July 6 in the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec. The derailment killed 50 people and devastated the small town.
In addition to the letter, MaineDOT is working with the FRA to review all available safety reports related to rail roads in Maine, in preparation of submitting a formal report to the Governor.
The five freight rail operators in Maine are:
• Eastern Maine Railway-Northern Maine Railway
• Maine Eastern Railroad
• Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway
• Pan Am Railways
• St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad
Commissioner Bernhardt has requested the information requested in today’s letter be submitted to MaineDOT by July 31, 2013.