August 30, 2013

CHICAGO (Aug. 30)—Acting on a complaint filed by the UTU Illinois Legislative Board, inspectors from the Illinois Commerce Commission found seven CSX Corp. viaducts in Chicago out of compliance with statutes requiring walkways and handrails on elevated structures.

An eighth viaduct was found to be in compliance.

All of the viaducts are located on CSX’s Blue Island Subdivision, a major north-south freight-rail artery that is scheduled for substantial infrastructure upgrades under the Chicago Regional Environmental & Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) program.

Originally built by the Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal Railroad, the Blue Island Sub was one of dozens of main lines that the Chicago City Council ordered to be grade-separated starting in 1890. The current track level is about 15 feet above the surface.

“It was Asst. State Legislative Director Joe Ciemny, a CSX employee and legislative rep for Local #1534, who brought the problem to the Board’s attention”, said State Legislative Director Robert W. Guy.

“Joe and his crews documented that the viaducts from 55th Street to 69th Street had no walkway or handrail on many of the bridges along that span, where CSX owns three tracks, including a controlled siding on the west side of the elevation where crews are frequently on the ground at all hours of the day and night making couplings, tying or releasing hand brakes and inspecting their trains for defects.”

Guy said that working on the east side of the siding is not an acceptable alternative because of the adjacent two main tracks that are very busy with moving trains and the 13-foot-6-inch track centers that place the east main track too close to the siding to permit safe passage for employees between a standing train and a moving one.

“Basically, the crews in that area have to work on the field side,” he said. “That places them on the extreme western edge of the elevation and forces them to walk on the outside of deck-type bridges with no walkway to assure secure footing and no bridge structure or hand rails to prevent a fall off the edge of the viaduct. As you can imagine, this type of activity is very risky at night, during inclement weather or when ice has formed on the ballast.”

Guy filed a complaint with the Commission July 9, citing one section of Illinois State Statute governing safety requirements for railroad track, facilities, and equipment.

On July 29, both Guy and Ciemny joined Commission personnel to inspect the locations cited in the complaint and essentially verified the union’s allegations. In an August 9 letter Commission Rail Safety Administrator Mike Stead told CSX Chicago Division Engineer Edward Sparks that “Results of the inspections indicate that a walkway and handrail needs to be installed at 4 locations, handrails need to be installed, or existing handrails repaired, at 3 locations, and no repairs are required at 1 location.”

Guy said CSX has agreed to meet with the UTU and the Commission September 4 to review the inspection results and develop a plan and timetable to address the safety issues.

“Asst. Director Ciemny will be representing us at that meeting,” Guy said. “He is familiar with that property and with the hazards the Commission inspected. I’m encouraged by what the ICC has recommended and I believe events are moving in the right direction.”