California’s new fee on hazardous railroad shipments being challenged by railroads

California’s new fee on rail deliveries of certain hazardous chemicals, including crude oil, is being challenged in federal court. The new state regulation, set to take effect this year, requires railroad companies to collect a $45 fee from their customers for each rail car carrying any one of 25 hazardous materials into the state. The funds are to help the state pay for improvements to its emergency response capabilities so it can better respond to spills resulting from train derailments.

States seek more information and control over oil train shipments

As shipments of crude oil by rail have climbed dramatically in recent years, high profile derailments and explosions have put the issue high on the list of public concerns. As noted in a recent article in Governing, state legislators are looking to increase oversight and be better positioned to handle derailments and resulting fires by asserting their authority over rail carriers moving oil in their states.

MassDOT helps travelers make sense of regional bus, train, and ferry routes

Last month MassDOT announced the release of a comprehensive set of maps detailing privately operated bus, rail, and ferry routes throughout New England and connecting services to New York State. Recognizing that intercity travelers in New England often pass through multiple states in a single day, and that there was no single source for regional bus, train, and ferry information, MassDOT began its effort to develop one.

Can passenger and freight rail coexist?

Amtrak is dealing with a steadily increasing problem of service delays. Timing conflicts with freight sharing the same tracks are a significant factor. A law passed by Congress in 2008 sets Amtrak on-time performance standards and considers any number below 80 percent as substandard. This same law requires that freight railroads give Amtrak priority on their tracks and allows Amtrak to penalize freight rail providers for giving dispatch priority to freight trains on Amtrak routes. However, a July 2013 U.S. Court of Appeals decision ended Amtrak’s power over freight lines, which has greatly contributed to the decline in on-time performance.

States to get more information about oil train traffic

USDOT recently issued an emergency order requiring that railroads moving large amounts of crude oil from the Bakken formation notify the states through which their trains travel. Railroads must notify each state’s emergency response commission of the route the trains will travel, estimated volumes of oil the trains will transport, and their frequencies. In addition, railroads must provide to each state the contact information for at least one responsible party at the railroad and must assist states in sharing information with emergency responders in affected communities.