Blumenthal and Schumer announce rail spending bill will fund more inspections

The Senate’s 2014 spending bill coming forward this week preserves a $185 million request by national rail regulators to hire more inspectors to inspect more of the nation’s rail track, State Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer-D-N.Y. announced Tuesday.
Last month in the wake of a derailment of a Metro-North train in the Bronx,N.Y., U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and FRA officials said that at current funding levels they were unable to inspect more than one percent of the nation’s 145,000 miles of railroad track annually.
The money, Blumenthal and Schumer announced will enable the hiring of 45 new inspectors.
““These funds are a solid step toward fixing persistent, prevalent rail safety flaws,” Blumenthal said. “More inspectors on the ground will enable detection of track defects and other deficiencies to deter and prevent future tragedies like Spuyten Duyvil and Bridgeport costing lives and dollars. Additional safety steps are urgently necessary but this money combined with FRA’s camera rule commitment marks real progress.”
The condition of a piece of track near Bridgeport has been a focus of federal investigator’s probe of a derailment of a train and collision with another in Bridgeport last May which injured 76 people.
In the days before that accident, National Transportation Safety Board investigators discovered that Metro-North inspectors identified flaws with track in that area but did not issue a slow speed order or shut down tracks to complete the work.
The omnibus spending bill will also include a deadline of March 17 for the Federal Railroad Administration to report to Congress on its ongoing 60-day safety review of Metro-North called Operation Deep Dive.
As part of the effort, the FRA deployed a “strike team” of rail safety experts to evaluate the railroad’s performance and existing practices to maintain passenger and employee safety.
Kevin Thompson, a spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration said that the agency will be able to complete to Congress by the March 17, 2013 deadline.
“We are fine with that,” Thompson said. “By March 2 or 3 we would have been done and then would issue a report so it is right in line with what we expected to do.”