News Releases

OIL TRAINS: Murray, Collins Lead Bipartisan Push for Increased Safety Resources on Short Line Railroads

May 15 2014

OIL TRAINS: Murray, Collins Lead Bipartisan Push for Increased Safety Resources on Short Line Railroads

Undermanned short line railroads transport crude oil and ethanol, serve larger, interstate rail lines

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Transportation, respectively, urged U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to increase safety resources for short line railroads, which make up one third of the nation’s rail network, but lack the funding and support that larger, Class I railroads receive.

“As we discussed when you testified before our Subcommittee, there is no silver bullet to improving rail safety.  It is a complicated multi-faceted issue involving prevention, mitigation, and response aspects,” the Senators wrote in the letter.  “The proposed Short Line Railroad Safety Institute could be an important part of the larger solution and would help improve the safe transportation of crude oil and other hazardous materials.”

**Map of short line railroads in Washington state**

Full list of short line railroads in Washington state:

  • Genesee & Wyoming owned railroads:
    • Cascade & Columbia River Railroad (CSCD), owned by Genesee & Wyoming, Inc, interchanges with the BNSF in Wenatchee, WA and continues to run north to Oroville, WA.  It is headquartered in Omak, WA. View map here.
    • Puget Sound & Pacific Railroad (PSAP), owned by Genesee & Wyoming, Inc., is headquartered in Elma, WA and runs throughout Northwest Washington before it interchanges with the BNSF and UP. View map here.
  • Central Washington Railroad (CWA) is a shortline partner with Columbia Basin Railroad. It is based in Yakima, WA and runs service throughout Central WA. View map here.
  • Columbian Basin Railroad (CBRW), a locally-owned partner with CWA, is headquartered in Yakima, WA and runs throughout the Columbian Basin. View map here.
  • Eastern Washington Gateway Railroad Co. (EWGR)’s interchange occurs in Cheney, WA and it continues to Spokane. It is headquartered in Davenport, WA. View map here.
  • Kettle Falls International Railway, LLC (KFR), owned by OmniTRAX, is based in Kettle Falls, WA and ends at the town of Danville, WA. The BNSF interchange occurs at Chewalah, WA. View map here.
  • Meeker Southern Railroad (MSN), owned by Ballard Terminal Railroad Company, LLC, is located between East Puyallup and McMillin, WA. It is headquartered in Seattle, WA.
  • Pend Oreille Valley Railroad (POVA) runs from Metaline Falls to Newport, WA. It is headquartered in Usk, WA. View map here.
  • Tacoma Rail (TRMW)- A public utility railroad that is owned by the city of Tacoma, WA and operates throughout Western Washington.  A map of TMRW can be found here.
  • Tri-City Railroad, (TCRY)’s corporate office is in Kennewick, WA. It is the handling carrier for UP in Richland, WA and it operates and maintains the railroad line owned by the Port of Benton. View maps here.
  • Washington and Idaho Railroad (WIR) operates from Spokane south to Palouse and Pullman. It interchanges with BNSF in Marshall, WA. A map is available here.
  • Watco owned railroads:
    • Great Northwest Railroad (GRNW), owned by Watco Companies, runs from Lewiston, Idaho west to Riparia, WA and interchanges with BNSF at Ayer, WA. View map here.
    • Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad (PCC), owned by Watco Companies, runs in Southeast Washington between Dayton and Wallula and Hooper Junction to Thornton and Colfax. View map here.
The letter sent today follows an April hearing held by Murray and Collins to specifically focus on safety issues related to rail shipment of crude oil.  Secretary Foxx, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman, Director of the Seattle Office of Emergency Management Barb Graff, and Rangeley, ME, Fire Chief Tim Pellerin, who led emergency response efforts after a train carrying crude oil derailed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, in 2013, each testified at that hearing.

The full text of the letter is below:

The Honorable Anthony Foxx
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary Foxx,          

We are writing to express our support for the creation of a Short Line Railroad Safety Institute designed to enhance safety in the short line freight railroad industry, including the transportation of crude oil and ethanol.  

Short line railroads operate more than 50,000 miles of track, which is approximately one-third of the national railroad network.  These short lines play an important role as a feeder system for the larger Class I railroads, helping connect local communities to the national railroad system.  Unfortunately, many of these short line railroads lack the resources that larger railroads are able to dedicate to safety training.    

It is our understanding that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has already discussed this proposed safety institute with the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA), and that the FRA has indicated its support for further developing the proposal.  This is definitely a step in the right direction and we would like to commend the FRA for acknowledging the unique challenges that confront short lines across the nation.

As we discussed when you testified before our Subcommittee, there is no silver bullet to improving rail safety.  It is a complicated multi-faceted issue involving prevention, mitigation, and response aspects.  The proposed Short Line Railroad Safety Institute could be an important part of the larger solution and would help improve the safe transportation of crude oil and other hazardous materials.

We ask that you examine the availability of existing resources within FRA to address emergency response training for short line railroads this fiscal year. We look forward to working with you to help make the proposed Short Lne Railroad Safety Institute a reality.  Thank you for your attention to this matter. 

Sincerely,

Senator Patty Murray
Senator Susan Collins