FRA Issues Emergency Order on Northwestern Pacific Railroad
Wednesday, November 25, 1998 (Washington, DC)
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today announced that it has issued an emergency order directing the Northwestern Pacific Railroad (NWP) to cease operations on its 286-mile network in California until specific safety improvements are undertaken.
"Safety is our highest transportation priority," said FRA Administrator Jolene M. Molitoris. "We will continue to work closely with the Northwestern Pacific Railroad in order to meet the safety standards necessary to ensure that the railroad’s operations protect the safety of area citizens."
Despite repeated attempts by federal and state safety inspectors to secure compliance with the law, the FRA has determined that conditions on the NWP now presents an emergency situation involving hazard of death or personal injury to the public and to its employees. Conditions on the NWP also threaten the environmental integrity of the Eel and Russian Rivers.
The NWP has failed to fulfill the terms of a 1997 Safety Compliance Agreement, and after that agreement was converted into a Compliance Order, failed to comply. Among the problems recently identified by the FRA:
Signals at 32 of the railroad’s 127 grade crossing are not functioning, posing a significant threat to public safety.
There continue to be widespread track safety defects presenting serious threats to safety.
The emergency order prohibits the Northwestern Pacific Railroad from operating over its rail lines until all the conditions of the order have been satisfied. The current emergency order stipulates that the railroad may operate again only after making specific safety improvements including:
Inspecting and repairing all grade crossing signals;
Adopting grade crossing signal standards and instructions acceptable to the FRA;
Equipping signal maintainers with proper circuit plans and test equipment;
Bringing all track to class 1 standards or, in the area covered by an earlier Emergency Order, declaring track to be "excepted" over which passengers and hazardous materials cannot be hauled;
Clearing vegetation away from signs, signals, and track; and
Providing a track maintenance plan and track employee training program.
In addition, the emergency order requires that the NWP satisfy the track safety requirements of the previous compliance order which remain unfulfilled. The emergency order implements additional restrictions by prohibiting all movement of hazardous materials on the railroad until the track is repaired to meet class 1 track standards. The Emergency Order takes effect at 6:00pm, on Friday, November 27, 1998.