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PSC rail inspection program renewed without much debate

When the North Dakota Public Service Commission launched its rail inspection division, it was controversial – and some state lawmakers questioned the need for it.

Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said funding for the program was debated in several sessions. But in the recently completed session, the controversy went away – and Fedorchak said legislators now understand the program’s value.

"We are an energy and agriculture state," Fedorchak said. "Both industries are very dependent on railroads, for shipments of products into the state, and other products out."

Fedorchak said investing in the safety of the system helps keep the system efficient.

"It also helps reduce problems for trains that go through the middle of most North Dakota communities," Fedorchak said.

The PSC program has two rail inspectors – and Fedorchak said they’ve been very successful in identifying problems with rail cars or tracks. She said most of the problems have been minor, but can turn into bigger problems if not addressed.

"Those are the things the railroads want to know about," Fedorchak said. "We want to find them before they turn into something much more problematic and much more serious."

Fedorchak said the PSC inspectors work hand in hand with the railroads' own inspectors to find problems and get them corrected.

Fedorchak said one of the inspectors has now been cross-trained in haz-mat issues, and the other is being cross-trained into looking at crossing signals.

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