A critical element of the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) mission is the safe operation of the passenger and freight rail systems in the United States. This section addresses how the Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Tier 1 Draft EIS) No Action and Action Alternatives could affect railroad safety, railroad users, and those who live and work along the Northeast Corridor (NEC). This assessment takes a corridor-wide, multimodal approach and considers highways, public transportation, Intercity and regional passenger rail, freight rail, and aviation. The FRA analyzed data for the 2012 calendar year, or where noted, highlighted trends from 2009 through 2013.
For purposes of this analysis, the FRA divided safety into three categories: modal safety, railroad operational safety, and railroad infrastructure safety and security. These categories are defined below. The NEC FUTURE safety analysis of the Action Alternatives focuses on the following:
The FRA considered safety in the following contexts:
The FRA developed an effects-assessment methodology to evaluate safety, which is provided in Appendix E, Section E.18. The methodology provides a detailed definition of each resource, data sources, an explanation on how the Affected Environment was defined and established, and how the effects on each resource were evaluated and reported. Table 7.18-1 summarizes key factors and data application associated with the methodologies for each safety resource evaluated.
|Resource||Affected Environment||Type of Assessment||Outcome|
|Modal Safety||Study Area||
|Railroad Operational Safety||Study Area||
|Railroad Infrastructure Safety and Security||Study Area||
In light of the network characteristics of the passenger rail system, the FRA considered the entire Study Area for the safety analysis. The Study Area includes a broad geographic area, spanning 457 miles from Washington, D.C., to Boston, MA. The Action Alternatives assume that the passenger rail system throughout the Study Area will achieve a state of good repair by 2040. The FRA considered the overall safety of the transportation network, with a specific focus on the passenger rail network for the modes presently operating and expected to be operating in 2040. Safety is principally a function of the travel mode that users select. Within the passenger rail mode, rail operations and infrastructure influence overall passenger rail system safety.
This section compares safety data, including the number of fatalities for the various transportation modes in the Affected Environment. Table 7.18-2 identifies the total number of fatalities, by transportation mode, for the primary transportation services in the Affected Environment. This table includes highway fatalities - which include all roadway travel - and public transportation, rail, and aviation fatalities, encompassing the motorized modes of travel available to the traveling public. Public transportation travel is often a part of a rail or air trip as passengers travel to access airports or rail stations. For comparison, the table includes the modal fatalities for the United States.
|Transportation Mode||U.S.||Affected Environment Portion of Each State||Affected Environment Total|
|Heavy Rail (Subway)||51||4||1||0||3||0||30||0||0||1||38|
Highway fatalities rank the highest among all modes for the United States as well as for the Affected Environment. Highway fatalities within the Affected Environment represented 5 percent of all highway fatalities within the United States and totaled 1,744 fatalities within the states comprising the Study Area. Public transportation fatalities within the Affected Environment represented 35 percent of all public transportation-related fatalities within the United States.
As shown in Table 7.18-2, there was an average of 4 passenger rail fatalities within the Affected Environment each year over the 5-year period and an average of 2 freight rail fatalities annually. Over the 5-year period in the Affected Environment, there were 5 passenger fatalities on Regional trains and no passenger fatalities on Intercity (Amtrak). Over the 5-year period within the Affected Environment, there were 34 fatalities of contractors, employees, or other non-passengers related to railroad operations across all passenger and freight rails. The passenger rail fatality rate within the Affected Environment was below 0.01 per 100,000 people. These performance metrics signify the exceptional safety of rail as it pertains to the traveling public.
The numbers included within the table for rail and public transportation fatalities are related to the traveling public's safety experience in actual conditions. Rail trespasser fatalities are included in Section 126.96.36.199, Railroad Operational Safety.
Table 7.18-3 summarizes the number of passenger rail accidents reported within the Affected Environment in the 5-year period (2009 -2013). These accidents included slips, falls, natural causes, and other injuries reported on trains, including any reported crimes, bug or bee stings, or accidents related to passenger behavior. New York and New Jersey reported the greatest number of passenger accidents, although New York and New Jersey also carried the largest number of passenger rail passengers in the Affected Environment.
|Geography||Passenger rail Accidents||2009-2013
Table 7.18-4 highlights accident totals on the Intercity, passenger, and freight rail networks located within the Affected Environment related to rail operations. This table indicates rail accidents involving rail equipment that resulted in monetary damage as well as fatalities that occurred on railroad equipment or property.
Within the Affected Environment, there were 115 railroad accidents involving 137 trains reported in 2012. (If two trains collide, it is counted as one accident.) Derailments accounted for 48 percent of the accident causes for all trains involved, with collisions (including those occurring at highway at-grade crossings) accounting for 9 percent of the trains involved in accidents. In the United States, 76 percent of all trains involved in accidents were involved in derailments, which is a much higher percentage than the 48 percent of trains in the Affected Environment.
While many of the railroad lines within the Affected Environment contain at-grade crossings, the NEC is predominantly grade-separated. In 2012, six fatalities were reported at grade crossings within the Affected Environment.1
Table 7.18-5 provides the rail fatalities related to operational incidents along the NEC. The number of accidents for each state is reported for each train involved.
There were 152 rail-related fatalities in the United States in 2012, not including trespassers. Seven rail fatalities in the Affected Environment were related to passenger rail operations, and one was related to freight rail operation. Nationally, 20 percent of rail fatalities related to passenger rail operations and 80 percent related to freight rail operations.
The "Other" category represents fatalities for those listed as non-trespassers, including highway grade-crossing incidents.
|Geography||TOTAL||Passenger rail Operations||Freight rail Operations|
Operations-related fatalities on the passenger rail network are overwhelmingly the result of trespassing. Trespassers are people who have entered railroad property without permission. In 2012, there were 8 rail-operations-related fatalities in the Affected Environment and 45 fatalities of trespassers (Table 7.18-6). In 2012, 9 percent of nationwide trespasser fatalities occurred in the Affected Environment. Trespassers are often members of the public who have allegedly committed suicide. These are often deliberate and not related to the nature of the rail operations. The FRA works continuously with railroads and public authorities to prevent railroad suicides and promote responsible behavior near rail infrastructure through Operation Lifesaver, Inc.2
According to FRA statistics, approximately 40 percent of rail accidents in 2012 were the result of equipment or infrastructure deficiencies or failures. Equipment and infrastructure deficiencies or failures can contribute to train- or station-related accidents involving passengers, employees, contractors, visitors, or others with permission to be on railroad property. These infrastructure deficiencies or failures include (but are not limited to) the following:
Table 7.18-7 summarizes the number of rail accidents reported within the Affected Environment that were the result of infrastructure or equipment failures or malfunctions. This included anything reported as track, signal, or equipment as the primary cause. In 2012, 42 percent of rail accidents resulted from infrastructure and equipment failure or malfunction.
|Geography||TOTAL||Accidents Resulting from Infrastructure or Equipment Failures/Malfunctions|
The NEC FUTURE Travel Demand Model anticipates that interregional travel within the transportation network in the Affected Environment will shift between modes in 2040. Model outputs estimate that in the No Action Alternative, the percentage of interregional travel occurring on rail for 2040 will be 5.9 percent. For the Action Alternatives for 2040, interregional travel is projected to range from 8.4 percent to 9.5 percent. Relocating trips anticipated for highways onto increased Intercity rail capacity, operating on a combination of safer shared-rail corridor and segregated rail right-of-way, would result in a safer overall mix of transportation tripmaking in 2040. Table 7.18-8 identifies the anticipated modal shift for interregional travel.
|Mode||No Action Alternative||Alternative 1||Alternative 2||Alternative 3|
|% of Overall Intercity Tripmaking||5.9%||8.4%||9.0%||9.5%|
Along the NEC, many different types of passenger and freight trains operate in physically and temporally shared lines. The NEC is unique in the Unites States in functioning simultaneously as a high-speed rail line, a corridor for Intercity and Regional passenger trains, and in various locations as a corridor that includes both through and local freight trains.
The FRA's passenger-equipment safety standards currently govern the crashworthiness standards and emergency egress/rescue access systems of Tier I and Tier II passenger equipment. Tier I equipment operates at speeds not exceeding 125 mph. Tier II equipment operates at speeds between 125 mph and 150 mph, and requires regulatory approval for the operation of Tier II equipment that has not been previously used in revenue service in the United States. The FRA's track regulations also set the maximum allowable speed for different classes of track, and regulatory approval is required for equipment operating at speeds above 125 mph.
Because the FRA has authorized the operation of Amtrak's Acela Express at speeds up to 150 mph, the existing NEC has trains operating in both Tier I and Tier II environments. Because of this unique mix of services on the NEC, waivers to FRA regulations in certain cases are granted by the FRA to permit operating characteristics outside of the limits prescribed in the regulations. There are currently no Tier I restrictions regarding shared use of right-of-way with freight operations. The Connecting Corridors off the NEC also operate in the Tier I environment.
Tier II standards govern operations along the portions of the NEC where maximum authorized speeds for passenger trains range between 125 mph and 150 mph. Amtrak Acela Express trains are the only Tier II train equipment permitted to operate at these speeds. Under its current FRA waiver, the Acela equipment can operate intermixed with other Tier I passenger and freight operations and operate above 125 mph, provided that freight operations and passenger operations occur at separate times (i.e., temporal separation). Intermixed operations currently include Amtrak Intercity-Corridor and long-distance trains, along with Regional rail and freight trains along significant portions of the NEC. Amtrak has petitioned the FRA to increase the top speed of its Tier II operations to 160 mph in certain locations, which would require modification to its current waiver.
The FRA is currently developing Tier III passenger-equipment safety standards. The Tier III standards would represent a new national standard for rail operations and equipment, which will apply to the California high-speed rail system, and are assumed for future NEC operations in all of the Action Alternatives as further described in Section 188.8.131.52.
The FRA's track safety standards also govern other factors, such as at-grade crossings. No at-grade crossings are permitted when operating speeds exceed 125 mph (Class 8 and Class 9 track). This is generally not an issue on the NEC: there are no at-grade crossings south of Waterford, CT, or north of Stonington, CT. Eight crossings remain between Waterford and Stonington, where the maximum authorized speed of trains is 125 mph or less.
The implications for operational safety of the No Action Alternative is that safety conditions would be expected to remain fairly consistent with 2012 figures and in general proportion to increases in overall travel. Under several of the Action Alternatives, separating passenger rail from freight rail would decrease the number of accidents, especially those accidents associated with Intercity passenger rail.
In conjunction with the FRA's track safety standards and other regulations, the pending Tier III standards will establish the crashworthiness standards for equipment that can operate on shared tracks or on separate tracks within a shared right-of-way and the infrastructure and systems required for safe operations. It is anticipated that Tier III passenger equipment safety standards (along with the FRA's track safety standards) would permit higher-performance high-speed rail operations, with maximum authorized speeds above 125 mph and up to 220 mph. The Tier III environment would require exclusive right-of-way for high-performance trainsets operating above 125 mph and prohibit other equipment types from sharing the exclusive high-speed tracks. There would be no intermixing of high-speed operations with freight or non-Tier III passenger operations (Tier I or Tier II) at speeds above 125 mph. However, Tier III equipment could operate in a Tier I shared-use environment on tracks used by conventional passenger and freight equipment at speeds at or below 125 mph. With a waiver of these standards to permit Tier III high-performance trainsets to operate at up to 160 mph in a shared-use environment, as assumed in the Action Alternatives, these trains would be able to match the performance of the Tier II Acela Express equipment when operating on the existing NEC.
Tier III passenger equipment is assumed to be able to operate with a waiver above 125 mph, up to 160 mph (Class 8 track), on tracks that are also used by freight trains, provided the freight trains are temporally separated. As a result, freight service would be strictly limited to times of day and night during which passenger service with Tier III equipment is not operating.
The use of Tier III equipment would preclude operation of freight trains on Class 9 track with speeds above 160 mph and up to 220 mph. The Action Alternatives provide for freight operations on separate conventional (non-high-speed) tracks. Where operation of freight trains on high-speed or express tracks (at Class 8 or below) would be unavoidable and could be accommodated - either for normal or contingency operations - restrictions may be placed on the type, weight, or maximum speed of freight trains operating on the high-speed tracks, with possible requirements for signaling, dragging equipment, overheated bearing, shifted load, and high-impact wheel detectors in place at entry points to such tracks.
All new rail right-of-way included in the Action Alternatives would be completely grade-separated. The eight existing at-grade crossings on the NEC in southeastern Connecticut would not be eliminated.
The implications for infrastructure safety of the No Action Alternative is that safety conditions will be expected to remain fairly constant with 2012 figures, in proportion to increases in overall travel. Under the Action Alternatives there would be numerous equipment and infrastructure upgrades that would likely reduce the number of accidents associated with equipment failures or infrastructure deficiencies. Additionally, separating passenger and freight trains would reduce the wear and tear on rail infrastructure resulting from the hauling of heavier freight rail. Furthermore, the Action Alternatives propose a fully grade-separated NEC for the new route options, which would reduce the frequency of conflicts and potential accidents throughout the entirety of the NEC that would occur at highway-rail at-grade crossings.
Positive Train Control (PTC) is a control technology used to prevent or avoid train collisions and derailments. The purpose of PTC is to slow or stop a train that is operating at an excessive speed or operating in a manner inconsistent with the section of track it is traversing. The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 requires that Positive Train Control is implemented over much of the passenger and freight rail network by December 31, 2015.3
No mitigation strategies are proposed for safety. The FRA assumes that the future Tier 2 actions would include all necessary analysis and coordination with the FRA to ensure that any improvements associated with implementing the Selected Alternative would be consistent with existing and proposed safety standards and regulations.
Subsequent Tier 2 analysis to address safety concerns would occur for site-specific elements as needed.
1 Federal Railroad Administration, Office of Safety Analysis, Table 5.15 Consolidated Hwy Rail Accident Incidents: Query by State, County and Tot Kld.
2 Operation Lifesaver is a 501(c)(3) educational organization in the United States dedicated to promoting safety at railroad grade crossings and railroad rights-of-way.
3 Federal Railroad Administration, Positive Train Control Information, Accessed August 2, 2015, https://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0152