Pennsylvania hires rail safety expert

by MM&D Online Staff

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania—Pennsylvania has hired rail safety expert Dr. Allan Zarembski to evaluate the state’s freight system.

Zarembski is an internationally recognized expert in the area of railway track and structures, vehicle-track dynamics, failure and risk analysis, safety, railway operations, and maintenance. A University of Delaware research professor and the director of the railroad engineering and safety program, Dr. Zarembski has extensive experience in rail operations including freight operations, transit, commuter and inter-urban rail.

“My administration is focused on the safety of Pennsylvanians and protecting people from the potential disaster resulting from Bakken crude oil train derailments,” said Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. “I have expressed grave concern regarding the transportation of crude oil in the commonwealth and have taken several steps to prevent potential disasters. Dr. Zarembski is an internationally recognized rail expert and he has extensive experience with rail safety and risk analysis. Pennsylvania sees some of the largest volume of Bakken crude oil transportation by rail in the United States and the potential for disaster is too great to ignore. I will continue to take steps to ensure the safety of Pennsylvania’s citizens.”

Every week, roughly 60 to 70 trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota’s Bakken region travel through Pennsylvania destined for Philadelphia or another East Coast refinery. Zarembski will evaluate Pennsylvania’s freight rail system and advise Wolf on risk reduction and safety. Zarembski will also work to identify areas of high risk and make recommendations for crude-by-rail safety measures as well as identify ways to implement those measures as efficiently and cost-effective as possible. His contract will last for three months.

In February, Governor Wolf sent a letter to President Obama urging expedited federal regulatory action in several areas to better ensure safety. In his first full week in office, the governor conducted an emergency table-top planning exercise to model the state’s response in the event of a crude oil train derailment in an urban area.

Wolf has personally met with executives from Norfolk Southern and CSX Corporation to discuss safety measures that could lower the risk of derailments. He has also directed the Pennsylvania Office of the Fire Commissioner to examine how an oil train fire could be extinguished to protect public safety, and the Wolf Administration has undertaken a review of the frequency and the procedures associated with rail infrastructure inspections by federal and state inspectors

Zarembski is an internationally recognized authority in the fields of track and vehicle/track system analysis, railway component failure analysis, track strength, and maintenance planning. His areas of research include failure and risk analysis of the track and its key components to include rails, ties, fastener, ballast, and turnouts; safety and derailment prevention; rail failure, fatigue and grinding; improved track inspection technology and applications; vehicle-track dynamic interaction; and track maintenance planning. Zarembski is currently research professor and director of the railroad engineering and safety program at the University of Delaware’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He has a PhD and M.A. in Civil Engineering from Princeton University, an M.S. in Engineering Mechanics and a B.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from New York University.