You know what important date is approaching? The centenary of the Russian Revolution? Yes, but that's not what I had in mind. Yom Kippur? Yes, but no again. The presidential candidates' debate? Please, don't remind me.
I'm thinking of September 30, 2016, and indeed it is fast approaching. What's so special about September 30? Well, by my count on my calendar that's 300 days since December 4, 2015, and December 4, 2015 is the day that HR 22, popularly known as the FAST Act, was signed into law.
So...no later than 90 days after the date of enactment, each railroad carrier providing intercity rail passenger transportation or commuter rail passenger transportation shall have surveyed its entire systems and identify where speed reductions greater than 20 mph from the speed allowed in the approach to a curve, bridge, or tunnel, are required for operating through the curve, bridge or tunnel.
And...and no later than 120 days after that 90 days, each of those railroad carriers is required to have submitted an action plan that:
identifies the locations;
describes appropriate actions to enable warning and enforcement of the required deceleration;
contains milestone and target dates for implementation of the appropriate actions;
ensures compliance with the identified speed restrictions.
Then...no later than 90 days after those submissions, the Secretary (of Transportation) shall approve, approve with conditions or disapprove the action plan.
90+120+90 makes 300 and that's September 30, 2016. And I, for one, can't wait for the date.
This exercise, and exercise is what it is, is the legacy of the fatal overspeed derailment at Spuyten Duyvil on Metro-North Railroad and at Frankford Jct. on Amtrak.
The law attempts to bridge a gap in FRA's authority in that FRA claimed it did not have the legal basis to extend the emergency orders issued to MNR and Amtrak after the fact, mandating just such enforcement where a deceleration of 20 mph or more was required, on a system wide basis.
And of course, the law contains the very same flaw, fatal flaw, that the emergency order and the safety advisories turned into canon: a 19, an 18 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, or 2 mph deceleration exists only on paper. Without continuous enforcement of "normal" or "maximum" speeds, all curves, tunnels, and bridges might require decelerations greater than 20 mph.
Yes, it's good to know your timetable. Let's pretend I'm a chief operating officer. I know that the MAS on the mainline of the Romeo and Juliet Division is 59 mph and I know that the curve at MP 47.5 requires a reduction to 40 mph. And I can substract and that's a 19 mph deceleration and I don't have to do anything. I know my timetable. And the law.
What I don't know is that locomotive engineer Mercutio has decided to make up some time and is operating a bit fast, like 90 mph instead of 59 mph on the approach to the curve. You see the problem?
We all do, all except our regulators and lawmakers.
Like Mercutio, they don't see the problem until it's too late.
But so much for proper planning. I want to know where we are in this process? Have the surveys been conducted? Have the safety plans been submitted? Detailing the appropriate actions? Containing the milestones? Ensuring compliance? And.....has the Secretary (of Transportation) approved, approved with conditions, or disapproved, all, some, or any of the action plans?
If so, can we see those plans?
And if not, what are we going to tell Congress?
September 26, 2016
What are you waiting for?