It seems like only yesterday that my favorite half-Senator, Near Miss Dick Blumenthal was denouncing FRA as lawless, a rogue agency, that had, more or less, blood on its hands, metaphorically speaking of course.
Actually, it wasn't only yesterday, it was October 28, 2014, and that's 252 yesterdays ago. At lot can happen in 252 days. Babies come to term; the basketball season could possibly end.
In 252 days, Blumenthal can embrace, metaphorically speaking of course, the acting/nominee FRA administrator at the dedication of a memorial to a railroad MOW employee. That employee had been tragically killed while working on the tracks due to a dispatcher's error.
" 'I am convinced that her heart and mind' are in the right place, Blumenthal said during a press conference" -- referring to Sarah Feinberg, acting FRA administrator, according to the New Haven Register.
Always ready to meet a hug with a hug, Ms Feinberg responded: " 'I think the Federal Railroad Administration day in and day out does more than any other group that I can think of in the federal government' to ensure safety, Feinberg said. 'But we also need really strong partners,” and “we could not ask for better, stronger partners than Senator Blumenthal.'”
If the sight of those two TITANS, who embody both the will of the people and a world of technical expertise when it comes to knowing what's safe and what's not (Stand back from the edge of the platform, please Mr. Senator), joining hands to improve rail safety doesn't bring a lump to your throat, well there's something wrong with you. Me? Don't bother asking. We all know something's deeply wrong with me.
Having buried the hatchet and agreeing on improving roadway worker safety, Near Miss Dick and Ms. Feinberg moved on to a more serious matter, a matter that must become a priority for FRA just as it is for the Senator; a matter of such import, breadth, depth, scope that only the combined efforts of the legislative and the executive branches can prevent disaster.
And that matter is..........parking. If there's anything that puts rail safety in its proper perspective, it's parking. Sure the PTC deadline is approaching. Sure safety is important. But we know what really matters to the people, and that's parking.
Now I personally think that the administrator and the Senator should inaugurate a joint task force and spare no expense to get the Federal government involved in purchasing, developing, and constructing suitable parking for rail users.
Don't bother the governor of the state. Don't petition the state legislature. Go Federal. Right to the top, if need be. I can see it now, Near Miss Dick brings to the floor of the Senate, bill 936, "The Affordable Parking Care Act."
That's exactly what they should do; what they should worry about. On the other hand, what we should be doing, what we should worry about has a lot more to do with the commitment to roadway worker safety that the Senator and the acting administrator think they made.
More precisely, the death of the MOW worker near West Haven was caused by human error, when the train dispatcher failed to restore the required protection, called "blocking" to his control panel, which prevents the display of a signal in the field that allows train movement into the work zone. The dispatcher then displayed the signal allowing the train to proceed at maximum speed.
When the RSIA 2008 settled on its functional requirements and definition of PTC, the law required PTC systems to be designed "to prevent...incursions into established work zone limits."
Congress left it to FRA to interpret that requirement, and reasonable people can have reasonably different interpretations. However what is not subject to interpretation is where the authority for permitting train movements into work zones resides.
It most definitely does not reside with the train dispatcher. By definition, a work zone is not under the authority of the train dispatcher. The dispatcher cedes his/her authority to authorize movements within the limits of the work zone to the employee-in-charge of that zone. The dispatcher cedes authority for movement into the work zone to the employee-in-charge.
The dispatcher in permitting the establishment of a work zone has created a section of track over which he or she no longer has authority.
This means that the positive protection against incursion into the work zone is not established when a person without authority over the track can permit a train to enter the work zone limits.
All that is just the ABC of operating rules, of the authority for train movements. When a train dispatcher applies the blocking devices to the signals at the limits of the work zone, that is not positive protection as that dispatcher can improperly remove the blocking devices and route a train into the zone. Hence the death in West Haven; hence the fatal accident of January 2007 in Woburn, Ma. The train dispatcher improperly authorized movement into the work zone, where the dispatcher had no authority to authorize such movement.
However from those fundamental principles of authority for movement, and from the fatal results when those principles are not observed, FRA determined in the 236.1005 (a)(1)(iii):
[PTC system requirements. Each PTC system required to be installed under this subpart shall reliably and functionally prevent:]
Incursions into established work zone limits without first receiving appropriate authority and verification from the dispatcher or roadway worker in charge, as applicable and in accordance with part 214 of this chapter:
Now I don't know what you call that interpretation, but I call that a complete and total misunderstanding of the rules for authorizing train movements, and the meaning of positive protection.
I don't think all the smiles and hugs and log-rolling in the world mean a thing when the very same condition of risk that is supposed to be excluded is reproduced, is legitimized, in the regulation.
July 7, 2015
Objects in this box may be closer than they appear.