January 16, 2004

CHICAGO (Jan. 16)—The professional staff of the Illinois Commerce Commission’s Rail Safety Section today filed a brief recommending that the Commission formally adopt the UTU’s proposed walkway safety standards.

“This is a significant fresh development in our effort,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “The staff’s recommendation differed from the recommendation issued January 9 by the Commission’s administrative law judge, June Tate. She proposed the Commission not adopt the UTU’s recommended safety code.”

Szabo, who characterized Judge Tate’s ruling at that time as “disappointing,” cautioned that the campaign was far from over because numerous steps remained in the process for achieving a state walkway safety standard.

In its Brief taking exception to Judge Tate’s Proposal, the ICC rail staff noted that public utility commissions in several other states have adopted similar walkway standards as those proposed by the UTU for Illinois and that the rate of workplace injuries for railroad employees who work on the ground in these states is lower than it is in Illinois.

The staff also said that the claims of some carriers that the smaller ballast required for safe footing would cause drainage problems conflicted with the carriers’ use of the same ballast under highway grade crossings.

“Staff believes different size ballast can be used without degrading the integrity of the track structure,” the Brief said.

Szabo said the staff’s Brief should be taken as “an encouraging step” in the process of getting a walkway-safety standard adopted. He also reiterated that UTU continues to review all its options to assure road and switching crews will have a secure footing free of obstacles, hazards and excessive slope in the areas where they work on the ground.

“When Judge Tate ruled against the UTU’s proposed walkway standards last week, I said a runner had been called out on a close play at the plate, but I cautioned that it was only the first inning,” Szabo said.

“Well, today we drove in a run, evened up the score, and got back in the game. The rally is on, and we’ve got many innings yet to be played.”