Sunday, September 22, 2013

Maine, NH Denied Federal Grant for Long Bridge Rail Line

(SOURCE:  Seacoast Online - Deborah McDermott)

Maine and New Hampshire transportation officials learned this week that the states did not receive a $25 million federal grant to build a rail line as part of the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge replacement project.

Joyce Taylor, chief engineer for the Maine Department of Transportation, said Friday the states still intend to go forward with plans for the rail line, which would carry nuclear waste in and out of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

The Long Bridge is the No. 1 red-listed bridge in New Hampshire and is nearing the end of its useful life.

Taylor said, at this point, she doesn't know how the two states will make up the difference or whether those discussions will result in a delay in construction. Work is expected to begin on the $160 million replacement in fall 2014.

"We were very hopeful, but we knew going into it that Maine's had a lot of success with TIGER funding," she said, referring to the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant for which the states had applied. "This is pretty rare money, so we knew it wasn't for sure."

The federal Department of Transportation on Thursday awarded $474 million in the 2013 round of TIGER grants. Maine received $6 million for a breakwater replacement in Eastport, and New Hampshire received $1.4 million for improvements to 42 miles of the Northeast Rail Corridor between Rochester and Ossipee.

The two states sought a grant for the Long Bridge rail line because federal highway money cannot be used for rails. TIGER funding is one of the few means to fill the funding gap, state transportation officials have said.

According to MDOT spokesman Ted Talbot, Maine and New Hampshire transportation commissioners Dave Bernhardt and Chris Clement have already spoken about the issue, and more meetings are scheduled with top transportation officials as they "work to identify how we can close that gap."

The U.S. Navy has indicated it doesn't intend to budget money for the rail line. To date, no other use is made of the rail.

"We just have to regroup," Taylor said. "Both states need this bridge."

New Hampshire Northcoast RR TIGER Grant


A $1.4 million TIGER grant was awarded for the upgrade and repair of 42 miles of mainline between Rochester and Ossipee on the New Hampshire Northcoast Railroad.

"New Hampshire Northcoast Railroad from Rochester to Ossipee is an important economic link for Strafford and Carroll counties, connecting the region to the national freight network," New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan said. "Funds from the TIGER grant will help support critical repairs and upgrades in order to increase the weight limit of rail car shipments and the speeds that trains can travel, as well as to improve safety and reliability. These improvements will assist in our efforts to support growing businesses, attract new industry to the region and help build the foundation for a stronger, more innovative New Hampshire."

B&M East Buskirk NY Depot Demolished

While technically not part of New England, below is a photo taken by John "Cully" Cullinan of the old Boston & Maine East Buskirk NY depot. It was located next to the Guilford/PanAm Southern mainline and was once a whistle stop for westbound B&M passenger trains to Troy (and beyond). 

On 9/18/13, the depot was demolished by the new property owner. One more vintage railroad structure gone... 

Photo by John "Cully" Cullinan

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Pan Am Railways to Appeal OSHA Decision Over Whistleblower

NORTH BILLERICA, Mass. — Pan Am Railways Inc. intends to appeal a U.S. Department of Labor decision that the rail company violated the whistleblower rights of one of its Waterville employees, according to a Pan Am executive.

On Tuesday, the department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration ordered Pan Am Railways to pay $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages to an injured worker. OSHA said in its release that Pan Am retaliated against the employee and accused him of lying when he filed a Federal Railroad Safety Act complaint.

Pan Am Executive Vice President Cynthia Scarano said on Wednesday that there were discrepancies in the employee’s report to OSHA from his hearing with the railroad company.

The employee, who currently works in a railyard in Waterville, filed a complaint with OSHA on Dec. 6, 2011, claiming that Pan Am had subjected him to disciplinary action for reporting an injury and unsafe working conditions, according to a statement released on Tuesday by OSHA. The Department of Labor does not release names of employees involved in whistleblower complaints.

After the filing on Dec. 6, 2011, a second disciplinary hearing was held on Jan. 4, 2012, where Pan Am Railways alleged the employee made false statements to OSHA and the railroad.

Scarano said after the incident on the railroad there was a hearing conducted by the railroad and disciplinary action was taken against the employee for the incident. She declined to comment on the incident itself.
After the first hearing, the employee then filed a complaint with OSHA stating that the discipline was a retaliation against him, said Scarano. The railroad then held a second hearing.

“Upon receiving that complaint, we felt as though the two testimonies conflicted,” she said. “We had another hearing to establish the testimony, but no action was taken after that hearing. OSHA’s decision is in response to our second hearing, not our first hearing.”

Scarano explained that, under the Railway Labor Act, the railroad must have a hearing to establish the facts of an incident or accident. The first hearing was testimony from the employee while the complaint submitted to OSHA was written by the employee’s attorney, she said.

A second hearing was held to clear up the discrepancies, she said.

“OSHA found that the employee engaged in protected activity when filing the complaint, and the railroad took retaliatory action by charging him with lying and by holding the second disciplinary hearing,” OSHA said in a statement released on Tuesday. “Such adverse action can intimidate employees from exercising their FRSA rights, even if the charge is later dropped, as it was in this case.”

“Employers must understand that their employees have a legal right to file a whistleblower complaint with OSHA without fear of retaliation,” said Marthe Kent, OSHA’s New England regional administrator. “Responding to an employee’s complaint with threats of disciplinary action is not acceptable and prohibited by law.”

Pan Am Railways was also ordered to take corrective action, OSHA said. It must expunge all files and computerized data systems of disciplinary actions and references to the hearing notice and January trial. Pan Am must also post notices about its FRSA whistleblower rights at all its Maine locations and internal website.

OSHA also ordered Pan Am to pay reasonable attorney’s fees and compensate the employee for wages and benefits lost due to attending the January disciplinary hearing, according to the release.

A timeline of when the appeal will be filed and how long the process could take was unknown, said Scarano.
The rail company stresses safety, she said.

“Safety is the No. 1 priority with our railroad,” Scarano said. “We take it very seriously.”


Pan Am Rail Fined $50,000 by Labor Department

WATERVILLE, Maine (AP) -- The U.S. Department of Labor has ordered a Massachusetts-based rail company to pay $50,000 in damages to a worker in a Maine rail yard who said he was subjected to disciplinary action for reporting an injury and unsafe working conditions.

The employee in Waterville filed an OSHA complaint in 2011 against Pan Am Railways in North Billerica saying he was subjected to a hearing and letter of reprimand.

In January 2012, Pan Am held a second hearing. The Labor Department says Pan Am shouldn't have held that hearing.

OSHA found the worker, whom it did not name, engaged in protected activity when filing the complaint, and the railroad took retaliatory action by charging him with lying.

Cynthia Scarano, the railroad's executive vice president, said Pan Am is appealing the decision.


Seashore Trolley Museum Needs Volunteers for Pumpkin Patch Days

The Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunk Maine needs volunteers for their annual Pumpkin Patch Trolley days.  Below is information provided by the museum for those interested in helping them out this year:

2013 PUMPKIN PATCH Dates are Sep 21 & 22, 28 & 29.
We still need volunteers from 9:30 to 3:30 on those days in a number of areas.
If it is your intention to volunteer, we need to know IN ADVANCE, by September 16th. (We will have sandwiches and sodas for volunteers, so we really need to understand who will be here, and when, for planning purposes.)

Please email Sally Bates by Sept 16th  with the following info:

1.       Your Name, email, phone #
2.       Which day(s) you are volunteering for
3.       If you are bringing a youth or a group of youths under 18, WE NEED TO KNOW HOW MANY AND please understand that you must supervise them; they cannot go off on their own to work
4.       Which areas you PREFER to work in. 
These are the areas where volunteers are STILL needed:
                                                              i.      Monitoring and guiding children’s games  NEED MORE PEOPLE ALL FOUR DAYS
                                                           ii.      Pumpkin painting area: supervising, cleaning work area, restocking paints NEED ONE PERSON ALL FOUR DAYS
                                                          iii.      Face painting  NEED ONE MORE PERSON FIRST WEEKEND; NEED TWO PEOPLE SECOND WEEKEND
                                                          iv.      Shipping –  Check in at pumpkin patch - add tags to crates, check-in pumpkins, and provide ticket stub  NEED MORE PEOPLE ALL FOUR DAYS
                                                            v.      Shipping – Movers/Loaders at pumpkin patch - Moving pumpkins by cart or carry from field to platform, load mail car  NEED MORE PEOPLE ALL FOUR DAYS
                                                         vi.      Shipping -  Handlers on Mail Car - Loading/unloading the mail car, organizing them on board  Need one more person for second weekend
                                                        vii.      Shipping - Return/Unloading at Visitor Center NEED MORE PEOPLE ALL FOUR DAYS