City of Alexandria, VA
Action Update: August 8, 2008
New Legislation Introduced Concerning Railroads and Preemption Issues
'TRACS' Act Enters House, Targets CN/EJ&E Transaction
Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and 20 other representatives recently introduced the Taking Responsible Action for Community Safety, or TRACS, Act (H.R. 6707), which would require the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to consider the effect of rail expansion projects on local communities.
The bill would give the board authority over any transaction involving at least one Class I and mandate that the STB consider all safety and environmental effects, including public, grade crossing, and hazardous materials transportation safety; emergency response time; noise; and impacts on intercity passenger and commuter rail. If the adverse effects outweigh proposed benefits, the STB would be required to mitigate the effects or reject the transaction.
The board currently oversees any proposed merger or transfer of control of two major railroads to analyze potential anti-competitive and worker safety issues.
(CN) proposed acquisition of a major portion of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway Co. (EJ&E), according to the bill's 20 co-sponsors, who oppose the transaction.
Although the STB's recent draft Environmental Impact Statement on the CN/EJ&E transaction validates many safety, quality-of-life, and economic hazards, the board is currently not mandated to "consider those very factors when they make their approval or mitigation decision," said Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.), who co-sponsored the bill. "This legislation will require them to do just that."
Adds Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), another co-sponsor: "A rail company shouldn't be able to unilaterally move into a community, jeopardize residents' safety and quality of life, then shoulder taxpayers with the costs of mitigating the impact. This isn't just about one merger, it about protecting the basic rights of every community that contains a railway."
Oberstar plans to conduct hearings and a markup on the bill when Congress returns from recess next month.
More than 150 transportation experts, businesses, governmental and environmental leaders, community groups and business organizations have expressed strong support for the transaction, and CN has been "forthright and responsive" in working with communities to resolve concerns, CN officials said in a statement released yesterday. If the transaction is approved by the STB, more than 60 communities would experience rail congestion relief — roughly two times the number that would see increased rail traffic, they said.
The Class I "welcomes a realistic, productive dialogue with any individual or organization with a stake in the EJ&E transaction," CN officials said. "Such engagements are best for all parties affected by the proposed transaction and will yield the most productive outcomes." http://www.progressiverailroading.com/news/article.asp?id=17516
The City of Alexandria intends to monitor and follow this bill, and work with the delegation to attempt to address the issues raised by the NS Ethanol Transloading Facility in Alexandria.
The City of Alexandria’s Norfolk Southern Community Monitoring Group (NSCMG) Conducts First Meeting
On July 30, the newly formed Norfolk Southern Community Monitoring Group (NSCMG) conducted its first meeting at Charles E. Beatley Library, 5005 Duke Street. During its June 24 legislative meeting, the Alexandria City Council established the Mayor-appointed group to work in collaboration with City staff and agencies to monitor and keep the community informed about the many issues regarding ethanol transloading in the city.
The NSCMG discussed its mission statement, received updates on the City’s activities, and heard public comment about the ethanol operation. The meeting minutes are available for review.