News & Reviews News Wire STB approves 30-day emergency operation of Oklahoma short line

STB approves 30-day emergency operation of Oklahoma short line

By Trains Staff | March 4, 2024

Rock Island to take over route formerly operated by Blackwell Northern Gateway, shut down by FRA

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Portion of Oklahoma railroad map showing Blackwell Northern Gateway Railroad
A detail from the Oklahoma State Rail Map shows the Blackwell Northern Gateway Railroad (in red), which will be operated by short line company Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific on an emergency basis. Oklahoma Department of Transportation

WASHINGTON — The Surface Transportation Board on Friday approved an emergency request to allow short line company Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad to provide service for 30 days on the line formerly operated by the Blackwell Northern Gateway Railroad, shut down in February by the Federal Railroad Administration for safety reasons.

The State of Oklahoma and industrial park owner Blackwell Industrial Authority, owners of the 35.3-mile line in north central Oklahoma, petitioned the STB in late February to allow the emergency operation to restore service to the line’s two customers, Tensar International and A-Line TDS [see “Oklahoma, industrial park ask STB …,” Trains News Wire, Feb. 27, 2024].

In its decision, the board found the 30-day request was warranted, and instructed the state and industrial authority, if they should seek an extension to the 30-day period, to do so well in advance to give the board sufficient time to consider the request. “Any such request,” the decision reads, “shuld include further information from Petitioners regarding their efforts to identify a carrier to operate over the Line on a long-term basis and an explanation as to why an extension of the emergency service order is the appropriate mechanism for continuing service on the Line.”

The FRA shut down the Blackwell Northern Gateway, which had entered into an operating agreement for the line in September 2023, on Feb. 3, citing “a complete disregard for the safety of the public” and “gross negligence and willful failures to comply with Federal safety regulations” [see “FRA shuts down Oklahoma short line,” News Wire, Feb. 6, 2024]. The FRA said violations included allowing locomotives to be operated by unqualified individuals, operating locomotives not safe for use under federal law, and maintaining no records of track inspections or employees qualified to conduct such inspections.

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