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Railroad inspection program on neighboring state's agenda

Minnesota residents may be interested to know that a deal between North Dakota regulators and the Federal Railroad Administration appears imminent. Once struck, the deal will permit the state to enforce a rail safety program that will be financed by the Legislature.

Proposed railroad regulations often come about after notable train accidents or railroad injuries. Often, these regulations aim to reduce the likelihood of train accidents and other negative and damaging incidents. The program was proposed in the aftermath of the catastrophic derailment of a train transporting oil tankers in 2013; the accident started a fiery inferno near the city of Casselton.

According to the terms of the agreement, two North Dakota Public Service Commission rail safety inspectors will be allowed to work in conjunction with the FRA to perform track and mechanical inspections. Not surprisingly, 30 states in the contiguous U.S., including Minnesota and Montana, already have similar programs that supplement the Federal program.

A major advantage of implementing a supplemental, state-run program that mirrors its federal corollary is that unlike the federal program inspectors, state inspectors can focus their attention exclusively on the railroad tracks within the state without the need to divert their attention to additional tracks located in other states.

The program fits an existing need, given that over 50 percent of the oil shipped from the Williston Basin was transported by rail in May. The numbers suggest that this trend is not going to abate anytime soon, especially considering that rail traffic in the area has increased by a whopping 233 percent between 2005 and 2012. This figure is still climbing, according to data from the FRA.

While these types of developments in rail safety are encouraging and will hopefully prevent some accidents, there are instances that unfortunately cannot be accounted for. Those who find themselves in a railroad accident situation may have a very stressful path ahead of them and seeking the assistance of an experience attorney may be able to relieve some of that pressure, hopefully heading to a positive resolution.

Source: Grand Forks Herald, "After fiery Casselton derailment, N.D. expected to launch state-run rail inspection program," Mike Nowatzki, July 28, 2015

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