PSC pushes for continuation of its rail inspection program

Feb 6, 2019

Public Service Commissioners Julie Fedorchak (l); chairman Brain Kroshus; and Randy Christmann.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

A four-year pilot program for rail inspections through the Public Service Commission will end in July.

And the PSC wants to keep the program going.

It’s been asking the Legislature to make it permanent. It is funded through a diesel fuel tax railroads pay. The program has two inspectors.

"They have completed almost 900 inspection days," said Commissioner Julie Fedorchak. She said the inspectors have found about 6,000 defects.

"They're issues that if left unaddressed, they could become more severe problems, and that could lead to a derailment or other things," Fedorchak said.

Fedorchak said the railroads are not fined for those defects, but the railroads need to take care of them. She said the inspectors have also issued 92 violations.

"Those are more serious problems," Fedorchak said. "Those can require the railroads to put cars or track out of service until the repairs are made."

Fedorchak said these inspections are important because the railroads are vital to North Dakota’s economy.

"It's essential that North Dakota has a system that operates efficiently and safely," Fedorchak said.

Fedorchak said since the program started, main line accidents are down, as is the amount of damage.

"I'm not saying the rail inspection program is the sole reason for that," Fedorchak said. "But having a couple of inspectors out there who are finding defects, and working with the railroads to make sure they're addressed, also contributes to improving the safety of the system."

Fedorchak said the railroads themselves have spent a lot of money in North Dakota on system upgrades.