July 17, 2003
CHICAGO (July 17)–Union Pacific Corp. and the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway filed a joint Petition of Support with the Illinois Commerce Commission July 11, saying they do not object to the UTU Illinois Legislative Board’s proposed rules for a uniform set of standards for all walkways used by railroad employees in the state.
“…Union Pacific and the BNSF, as owners and operators of approximately fifty percent (50%) of the railroad trackage in the state of Illinois, do not object to the adoption of said Walkway Rules,” the two carriers told the Commission in a jointly submitted Response to the Petition for Rulemaking originally proposed by the Illinois Legislative Board.
The new walkway standards would mandate that rail carriers provide safe walkways in areas “where rail carrier employees frequently work on the ground.” Walkways in such areas “must have a reasonably uniform surface and be maintained in a safe condition.” Ballast, if used, must be of yard walking quality. The surface slope of walkways “…must not exceed one inch of elevation for each eight inches of horizontal length in any direction,” walkway width “must be a minimum of two feet,” and “walkway surfaces shall be kept reasonably free of spilled fuel oil, sand, posts, rocks and other hazards and obstructions.”
“The state’s railroad employees appreciate the statesmanlike way in which UP and BNSF worked with the Illinois Legislative Board to arrive at mutually acceptable language on walkway-safety standards,” said Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “Our walkway-safety proposals represented common sense as well as legal precedent, since several other states already have similar rules. I believe UP and BNSF have found that such rules have not been a problem for them in other states and are not likely to present a problem in Illinois either. Carriers and employees have a mutual interest in preventing injury.”
CSX Corp. submitted a similar document which accepted the substantive language of the UTU proposal but differed on several minor technical points.
However, Norfolk Southern Corp. and Canadian National Railway, acting jointly through their attorneys, Sidley & Austin, asked Administrative Law Judge June Tate on July 11 for a 30-day extension on the rulemaking process. The carriers claimed their lawyers needed additional time to familiarize themselves with the issue and prepare an Objection. Judge Tate granted the two carriers the extension despite a UTU objection.
“It was disappointing, but not surprising, to learn that common sense and cooperation did not prevail with the Norfolk Southern and Canadian National,” Szabo said.
“ Nevertheless,” he said, “the Illinois Legislative Board is fully prepared to justify its position at the hearing Judge Tate has scheduled for August 26, and we look forward to presenting our arguments and exhibits at that time. Our attorney, Larry Mann, is one of the nation’s leading authorities on railroad safety, and he will call me as his witness. Both of us look forward to our day in court.”