Posts Tagged ‘National Transportation Saftey Board’

Trump Budget Slashes Amtrak Funding by 45%

May 24, 2017

The Trump administration wants to slash Amtrak funding by 45 percent in fiscal year 2018.

The detailed budget proposed released this week proposed giving Amtrak $744 million.

In the current fiscal year, Amtrak received $1.4 billion. The cuts for next year include ending $289 for Amtrak’s long-distance train routes.

The budget document described long-distance trains as “a vestige of when train service was the only viable transcontinental transportation option. Today, communities are served by an expansive aviation, interstate highway, and intercity bus network.”

The document said Amtrak’s long-distance trains represent the greatest amount of Amtrak’s operating losses, serve relatively small populations, and have the worst on-time record.

The Trump administration would instead appropriate $1.5 billion for the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington.

[The Northeast Corridor] “faces many challenges, and the 2018 Budget proposal would allow Amtrak to right-size itself and more adequately focus on these pressing issues,” the budget document said.

Nonetheless, the Trump administration has proposed cutting funding for the development of New York’s Penn Station by 64 percent from $14 million to $5 million.

The Amtrak funding cuts make up the lion’s share of the 37 percent cut proposed by the Trump administration for the Federal Railroad Administration.

The agency’s parent organization, the U.S. Department of Transportation, would receive $16.2-billion in FY 2018, a decline of 12.7 percent over what it received in FY 2017.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s budget would drop by 37 percent from $1.7 billion to $1.05 billion while Federal Transit Administration will decline by 5 percent from its FY 2017 appropriation of $11.8 billion.

The FTA would receive $11.2 billion, which includes $9.7 billion for transit formula grants. The FTA’s Capital Investment Grant program for new starts would be cut by 43 percent from $2.16 billion to $1.2.

Funding would be continued only for programs that FTA is legally bound to support through full-funding grant agreements.

Funding for the Transportation Generating Economic Recovery grant program would be eliminated.

The budget document said projects that are attempting to receive TIGER funding could still earn grants through the Nationally Significant Freight and Highways Projects fund managed by DOT’s Build America Bureau.

The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing and Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation programs would remain in place, but receive no additional funding.

The National Transportation Safety Board would receive $106 million, which is no change from FY 2017.

The Surface Transportation Board would receive a $5 million boost to $37 million in order to implement regulatory changes under the STB reauthorization law of 2015.

The Trump administration budget proposal is likely to undergo numerous changes as Congress considers federal funding priorities for FY 2018.

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NTSB Names Acting Chairman

March 20, 2017

Bella Dinh-Zarr has been named as acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board after the term of incumbent Chairman Christopher Hart expired last week.

Hart remains a member of the five-member board and had served as chairman since March 2015.

He had served as acting chairman for nearly a year before being nominated by the Obama administration to be the permanent chairman.

Dinh-Zarr has served as vice chairman since March 2015. Before joining the NTSB, she served as director of the U.S. Office of the FIA Foundation, an international philanthropy organization that promotes safe and sustainable transportation.
NTSB members are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate for five-year terms. By law, a board member is designated by the president to be the chairman while another is designated to be the vice chairman for two-year terms.

NTSB Eyes Damaged Track in Chief Derailment

April 8, 2016
Tire tracks leading to the out of alignment rails at the derailment site of the Southwest Chief.

Tire tracks leading to the out of alignment rails at the derailment site of the Southwest Chief.

Damaged track is the preliminary cause of a March 14 derailment of the Southwest Chief that injured about 30 passengers.

The National Transportation Safety Board said a truck struck the rails near Cimarron, Kansas.

NTSB investigators said railroad ties and tracks were out of their normal positions and established the point of derailment 25 feet beyond that location.

Video from the lead locomotive of the Los Angeles to Chicago train showed abnormal track immediately before the derailment, NTSB officials said in the report.

Investigators also found fresh damage to the north ends of the ties and fresh tire tracks perpendicular to the tracks. Also at the scene were small amount of flaked corn, a type of cattle feed.

The tire tracks led to a feed lot owned by Cimarron Crossing Feeders, where the tread on a 2004 Kenworth International truck matched the tire track impressions at the scene, NTSB officials said.

The truck in question is used to haul flaked corn to feed bins. The truck’s left and right mounting brackets on the front bumper were broken.

The tracks where the derailment occurred are owned by BNSF.

Train No. 4 was traveling at 60 mph — the maximum speed limited in that area — when the engineer applied the  emergency brakes
Amtrak and BNSF have estimated that the track and equipment sustained $1.4 million in damage.

The NTSB said its preliminary findings will be “supplemented or corrected during the course of the investigation.”

Track Out of Alignment Before S.W. Chief Crash

March 17, 2016

Investigators probing the derailment of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief early Monday say that the cause might be the rail being out of alignment after it was struck by a truck.

During a news conference, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator said the truck moved the rail 12 to 14 inches. The incident occurred a day before the derailment, which resulted in 32 people being treated at two Kansas hospitals for injuries sustained during the accident.

None of the injuries was life-threatening.

STBThe Los Angeles to Chicago bound train was traveling at 60 miles per hour just before the derailment, which occurred between Dodge City and Garden City, Kansas.

The train was carrying 131 passengers and 14 crew members.

NTSB investigators said the train’s engineer spotted a bend in the tracks and applied the emergency brakes, but was unable to avert the derailment, which occurred 18 seconds later.

The truck that hit the track was carrying cattle feed and belonged to Cimarron Crossing Feeders LLC.

The NTSB posted on its Twitter feed photographs of the truck and said that the company that owned it has been cooperative in the investigation.

BNSF owns the track and has repaired them. Amtrak said that Nos. 3 and 4 have resumed using the route.

A passenger aboard the train said she was lying across two seats trying to sleep when the derailment occurred.

“I heard and felt this horrible thundering and rumbling sound,” said Laurel Saiz of Syracuse, New York. “It lasted about five or six seconds and the train started turning over.”

Saiz, a journalism professor at Onondaga Community College in upstate New York, suffered a broken collar bone.

“In my mind, I told myself, this is a train derailment,” she said.

Saiz was on the right side of the Superliner coach, which then flipped over onto its left side.

She said she was thrown from her seat to the opposite side of the train and doesn’t remember what happened next.

“I just remember landing flat,” Saiz said. “I must of hit the other seats on the way down. I think that’s when I broke my collarbone.”

After the car came to a halt, Saiz said she heard an older man beg for help. “He said he couldn’t breathe and that he felt like he was dying,” she said. “That was horrible because I couldn’t do much to help.”

Rescue workers arrived on the scene within minutes and passengers who were not injured were able to help the older man.

Saiz said passengers had to climb a ladder to get out of their car and then reach the ground on another ladder.

A professional musician who was traveling back to his New York City home after playing a gig in Santa Fe, New Mexico, said he feels fortunate to still be alive after being seriously injured.

The musician, a percussionist and video artist who was born as Stefan Joel Weisser but goes by the name Z’EV, said time seemed to stand still once the train left the tracks.

“The train’s going along and then all of a sudden I could tell that they’re like hitting the brakes,” he said. “And then there’s this kind of, like, crack and then the train flips.”

Z’EV said flew in the air seven feet before landing on a seat’s arm rest.

“I knew I was hurt,” he said. “And then I don’t remember anything after that until I woke up the next morning in the hospital.”

Z’EV suffered five broken ribs on his left side and expects to remain hospitalized through the end of the week.

He expected it will take up to a year for his bones to heal. He hospitalized in Amarillo, Texas.

“Considering I use my arms in performing, you know it’s not clear whether–how much I’m going to be able to work,” Z’EV said.

“I can think of better ways to spend the next six months,” he said as he laughed. “The momentous things in your life, eventually you come to realize what it was about.”

Z’EV said he lacks health insurance so his Friends and fans have created a Go Fund Me page to help him pay for medical bills. So far, they’ve raised more than $22,000 of their $30,000 goal.

The page is at https://www.gofundme.com/kqu6bed4

NTSB Cites Jumper Wire use in 2012 Derailment

November 29, 2013

The use of a jumper wire that resulted in a false proceed signal is being blamed as the likely cause of the derailment of an Amtrak train last year near Niles, Mich.

The National Transportation Safety Board has ruled that the use of the jumper wire violated Amtrak procedures for overriding signal and train control safety. The NTSB also cited inadequate oversight by Amtrak management to ensure that proper jumper wire safeguards were used.

The accident occurred on Oct. 21, 2012, when Wolverine Service No. 350 en route to Detroit (Pontiac) diverged from the mainline at 61 mph at CP 190 and into the Niles Yard.

The train derailed about 291 feet after leaving the main track and traveled 1,148 additional feet before coming to a stop. The two locomotives, one on each end, and four passenger cars all derailed but remained upright.

The NTSB report said that a track maintenance crew had been operating a tamping machine at the site and after completing its work had contacted the Amtrak train director to seek permission to move the tamper into Niles Yard.

The train director was unable to align switch No. 2 into the yard and sought to contact a signal supervisor about the problem. However, no signal maintainers were available so a signal supervisor traveled to the site.

After arriving at CP 190, the supervisor attempted to correct the problem at the power-operated switch but was unsuccessful. He then entered the signal bungalow and removed two cartridge fuses, opened two terminal nuts on the terminal board, and applied local battery power using two jumper wires.

When the battery power was applied, the local control panel indication lights showed that the switch was aligned and locked normal, but he did not verify the physical position of the switch before applying the jumper wire.

The train director contacted the supervisor and informed him that the switch was now indicating normal on the dispatcher’s display and asked if it was safe for No. 350 to proceed eastward. The supervisor answered in the affirmative.

When the supervisor observed No. 350 approaching entering the yard tracks, he realized what had occurred, removed the jumper wires and reinstalled the cartridge fuses.

He did not notify anyone hat he had used jumper wires just before the derailment and he did not leave the signal bungalow to aid the passengers and crew on the derailed train.

On Oct. 26, 2012, Amtrak issued a safety notice and conducted a system wide safety stand down for signal maintenance personnel. Amtrak managers discussed the circumstances of the Niles derailment and reviewed proper jumper wire procedures at safety meetings throughout the system.

Amtrak also issued a safety bulletin that stated in part that that jumper wires should only be used as a last resort to restore train operations. The procedure requires the train director or operator to be notified in all cases in which any signal system is inoperative and how protection is provided until repairs are made and the jumper wires removed.