Thethird meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Transportation was held on<Day> Tuesday, August 5, 2008, at 1:00 PM, in Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Hubert Collins, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Brett Guthrie, Co-Chair; Representative Hubert Collins, Co-Chair; Senators Charlie Borders, David E. Boswell, Bob Leeper, Dick Roeding, Richie Sanders, Jr., Brandon Smith, Gary Tapp, and Damon Thayer; Representatives Eddie Ballard, Larry Belcher, Tim Couch, Jim DeCesare, Richard Henderson, Melvin B. Henley, Jimmie Lee, Russ Mobley, Lonnie Napier, Rick G. Nelson, Sannie Overly, Marie Rader, Sal Santoro, Arnold Simpson, Ancel Smith, Jim Stewart III, Greg Stumbo, and Tommy Turner.
Guests: Wayne Gentry, State Coordinator, Operation Lifesaver; Brian Glover, CSX Railroad; representing the Transportation Cabinet were Mike Hancock, Chief of Staff; Gilbert Newman, State Highway Engineer; Kellie Watson, Executive Director, Office of Human Resource Management; and Representative Don Pasley.
LRC Staff: John Snyder, Jim Roberts, Brandon White, and Marlene Rutherford.
Minutes of the June 3 and July 1, 2008, meetings were approved, as submitted.
First on the agenda was a presentation on rail crossing safety. Mr. Gentry said the Operation Lifesaver began in Idaho in 1972 when the national average of collisions at rail crossings exceeded 12,000 annually. Between 1978 and 1986, Operation Lifesaver was established in 49 states and the District of Columbia and is now in seven countries. Mr. Gentry has been involved with Operation Lifesaver since 1988 because of his concern with safety of his children and community and he has attempted to educate the general public on crossing safety. Mr. Gentry showed the committee a video taken from the rail cam of freight engines that showed what crossings look like from the engine prior to an accident occurring.
Operation Lifesaver is based on the tenants of the “3Es” of rail safety: education, engineering, and enforcement. The engineering aspect involves engineers designing better and smoother crossings, improving the signaling systems, and removing unnecessary crossings. Enforcement involves working with police officers, prosecutors, and lawmakers to stress the importance of crossing safety. Education is provided through Operation Lifesaver’s website, www.kyol.org which provides many statistics on rail safety, along with Operation Lifesaver training programs to trucking companies and truckers, children in grades K-8, police officers, student drivers, and school bus drivers.
The average train weighs twelve million pounds or more and he noted coal trains may weight at much as 24 million pounds. The average train will take at least a mile or more to stop at 55 mph. Since a train cannot steer or stop quickly, the train and railroad has the right-of-way at all rail crossings. Signage before and at rail crossings are very important. Look, live, and listen when around rail tracks. He emphasized that rail tracks are private property with no trespassing and laws are enforced.
Brian Glover, CSX Railroad Community Affairs and Safety, is Vice-Chair of Kentucky’s Operation Lifesaver Board of Directors as well as a presenter/trainer of the program statewide. Mr. Glover shared with the committee what the railroads do in conjunction with Operation Lifesaver on the state and national levels to make sure the education, engineering, and enforcement of rail safety is enhanced. The railroad provides funding for the state program, making sure that the money is spent in areas where there is a concentration of crashes or trespasser incidents. The railroad also provides equipment for special events such as an officer on the train to see firsthand what rail crews are exposed to as it relates to safety issues. There is county-wide training with bus drivers to make sure they are familiar with the laws and to heighten rail crossing awareness. Special training is provided for fire departments, EMS and 911 Systems, and police officers. He stated that railroads are mandated by the Federal Railroad Administration each year to reduce the number of crossings nationwide. The railroad works with Operation Lifesaver and the state’s Department of Transportation to recognize crossings that are prime targets for closure. Mr. Glover repeated an old adage of the rail industry, the safest crossing is one that does not exist. In 2003 there were 91 grade crossing collisions in Kentucky, 75 in 2007, a 17% reduction. He said that while there is also concern for victims and their families of rail collisions, there is a second victim, the train crews, who have to deal with the collision the rest of their lives.
Chair Collins asked Mr. Glover to explain the trespassing incidents statistics. Mr. Glover said that trespasser deaths result when a person is walking on railroad property, not necessarily at a grade crossing, but anywhere on railroad property which is private property. This is considered a trespasser fatality. A grade crossing collision is one that involves a grade crossing. All grade crossings in the country are given a Department of Transportation number for each specific crossing. When an incident occurs at the crossing it is classified as a grade crossing collision or fatality. Chair Collins also asked if there was a classification for the type signals installed at a particular crossing. Mr. Glover indicated that the determination is the responsibility of the state’s Department of Transportation. The Federal Railroad Administration mandates that the railroad install crossbucks at each public crossing. The state’s Department of Transportation is the agency that determines the particular warning devices for public grade crossings. This is determined by daily vehicle and train traffic.
Chair Collins also asked how many school bus accidents have occurred in the past few years. Mr. Gentry indicated that he was not aware of any accidents in the state. He said that railroads address site areas to the best of their ability but occasionally private property owners are difficult to deal with in attempting to develop a safer route for a bus.
Representative Pasley asked if the engineers record and report near misses at crossings. Mr. Glover said there are forms to be completed but not at a 100% rate. Some engineers are Operation Lifesaver presenters who do a good job of reporting near misses. Representative Pasley suggested that a system for reporting near misses may identify crossings that have a problem. Mr. Gentry pointed out that every engine has forms and operating procedure is that all close calls be reported. However, near misses occur so often that engineers are reluctant to report each one and the engineer makes that determination. Representative Pasley also asked whether the railroad communicates “near miss” information to the Department of Transportation. Mr. Glover stated that reports are made to the railroad’s Public Safety Coordination Center who discusses problem crossings with the department but not all situations are discussed.
Representative Overly asked if new drivers or high school drivers’ courses are a part of the training and education program that is targeted by Operation Lifesaver. Mr. Gentry said that Operation Lifesaver does participate in education of rail safety at any place that has a driver training program, public and private. He also said he was currently working with AAA to get some of their employees trained in Operation Lifesaver. Operation Lifesaver presenters are volunteers, some are supported by their companies. Representative Overly asked the position of the industry as it relates to educating the public rather than additional crossing gates, signals, and signage. Mr. Glover agrees that it is important to educate everyone and pointed out that laws in Kentucky are very strict especially for bus drivers. Enforcement of the laws on the books is important was well.
Chair Collins asked whether state traffic schools are targeted for training drivers with traffic violations in rail safety. Mr. Gentry indicated that Operation Lifesaver was not in those schools but thanked Chair Collins for the suggestion.
Representative Stewart asked whether there was a rating system for crossings much like bridges and roads are rated in the state. Mr. Glover indicated that he was not aware of any rating system. Representative Stewart asked if the number of enforcement officers had been increased. Mr. Glover said that the railroad had hired approximately 30 new railroad police officers in the last nine to twelve months. Representative Stewart also asked whether train engineers are allowed to make recommendations on crossing surfaces that need to be addressed. Mr. Glover said this responsibility lies with the road master responsible for that territory. Mr. Gentry said that engineers do report rough crossings.
Next on the agenda was Executive Order 2008-502 relating to the reorganization of the Motor Vehicle Commission which was discussed at the July meeting. The reorganization order expanded the number of members on the Commission by one additional consumer representative. Representative Henderson moved that the reorganization and appointment of an additional consumer representative to the Motor Vehicle Commission by Executive Order 2008-502 be approved, Senator Boswell seconded. Motion approved by voice vote. Chair recognized Senator Roeding for a point of order who asked whether the additional appointment required a change in the statute and that only the Legislature can amend the statute. Senator Roeding asked that the record reflect his “no” vote on the motion.
Representative Stumbo asked whether the current statute authorizes twelve members of the Commission. Staff indicated that it did. Representative Stumbo agreed with Senator Roeding that the Governor cannot change the statute by executive order. Staff indicated that upon reviewing the executive order and in discussing the matter with staff of the Committee on State Government, since the year 2000 there had been twenty instances in which the Governor had issued reorganization executive orders that changed the composition of a board or commission that was outlined in the statute. Staff indicated that the appointment of the additional member to the Commission is effective upon signing of the executive order by the Governor.
Commissioner Glass, Department of Vehicle Regulation, was recognized by the Chair to explain the executive order. Commissioner Glass stated that the Executive Director and Chairman of the Motor Vehicle Commission determined that there was a need for an additional consumer representative as a result of the number of consumer complaints.
Additional discussion was held. Representative Stumbo said that the Governor could issue an executive order and the Legislature has no oversight until the next session but the Governor cannot expand by executive order that which is set out in statute.
Following the lengthly discussion, Chairman Collins asked Representative Henderson if he would withdraw his motion to approve an additional consumer representative to the Motor Vehicle Commission by Executive Order 2008-502, and Senator Boswell if he would withdraw his second to that motion. Both agreed to withdraw their respective motions.
Senator Thayer then moved that a roll call be taken on the motion to accept the reorganization, seconded by Representative DeCesare. There being no objection, the secretary called the roll. The motion to approve the reorganization and appointment of an additional consumer representative to the Motor Vehicle Commission by Executive Order 2008-502 failed with a vote of 17 Nays, 5 Yeas, and 2 Passes.
Representatives from the Transportation Cabinet were available to discuss Executive Order, 2008-529, reorganizing the cabinet. Present from the cabinet were Mike Hancock, Chief of Staff; Gilbert Newman, State Highway Engineer; and Kellie Watson, Executive Director, Office of Human Resource Management. The cabinet provided a handout containing the Executive Order, Executive Order Plan, and Organization Charts for the various units within the cabinet as well as highway districts. The intent of the organization plan was to bring together uniformity and streamlining of operations in light of the current budget; to increase effectiveness and efficiency in performance; improve mobility and access in safety reducing the number of transportation-related fatalities; align program tasks to equitably distribute workloads and improve reporting lines; create a central point of contact for development and administration of policy; and promote communication with the public. He noted that the reorganization was based on the last ratified reorganization that occurred in 2005.
Ms. Watson said that the reorganization streamlined the cabinet’s organizational units for central office and the districts. In reviewing the organization of the cabinet it was determined that some units, branches, and divisions had only one individual and the cabinet was able to streamline the functions and provide more efficiency. She pointed out that the central office has a net loss of 62 organizational units and the districts averaged 40-45 organizational units in each districts and are now down to 25. The districts still have the same branches, sections, and units. This allows flexibility and an equitable shift of workload to accomplish the work and services it is charged to perform.
Chair Collins indicated that he had reviewed and discussed the reorganization with the cabinet and that employees would not be affected monetarily. There had been concern that employees would have to commute long distances to their office but the cabinet was able to limit long distant commutes as much as possible. Chair Collins said that it was also his understanding that the reorganization was being implemented slowly and that issues and concerns were being worked out between employees and management.
Senator Boswell asked about the organization of the district offices and whether the directors in the districts would continue to be highway engineers. The cabinet indicated that they would be.
Representative Henderson asked if it was safe to inform his constituents who work for the cabinet that at this time they would not have to commute extra distances to their job site. Ms. Watson indicated that no one at this time has had a change in work county and if there was to be a change the employee would be advised by letter of an involuntary transfer advising them of their rights. None have been issued at this point. Representative Henderson also stated that he had been advised that there would be little change in the road department organizational structure and how the state garages are run. Mr. Newman stated that employees in the maintenance barns at this time would remain there.
Representative DeCesare asked if the information provided the committee in the reorganizational booklet contained an organizational chart of the entire cabinet, including district offices. Mr. Hancock indicated the cabinet had failed to include a whole cabinet organizational chart in information provided but would provide the current organization chart of the cabinet. He also noted that the cabinet’s website contained the most current organizational chart. Representative DeCesare wanted to make sure that an issue as previously discussed with Executive Order 2008-502 would not occur in the cabinet reorganization. Mr. Hancock indicated the reorganization of the cabinet is a typical reorganization plan. He pointed out that the cabinet had not had a ratified reorganization since 2005.
Senator Roeding asked whether the loss of 62 organizational units because of retirements will there be a leaner and meaner organization. Ms. Watson said that this allows greater flexibility to allow individuals to provide services.
Senator Thayer asked if the cabinet planned to seek a member of the Legislature to file the reorganization proposal as legislation in the 2009 session. Mr. Hancock indicated that this would be the normal course of action.
Representative Napier asked how many automobiles are planned to be taken off the road and who will be affected. Mr. Newman stated that the cabinet had not tied the vehicle usage to the reorganization but everyone who drives a vehicle has been advised that the miles are monitored and he anticipates a substantial savings in that area.
Representative Pasley commented that one of the primary reasons for the reorganization is because of the budget situation and increased retirements and the cabinet needs the flexibility to reorganize the cabinet in order to develop projects particularly when considering the Federal Highway Administration. FHWA is becoming more interested in how many employees transportation cabinets have and if employees are they in the proper position to deliver federal highway projects which could cause federal funds to be in peril.
Representative Couch inquired about the previous comment concerning the last reorganizational bill not being passed by the Legislature and asked what the issues were that it was not passed by both chambers. Mr. Hancock said he was not personally involved and was only aware that there were matters of conflict. Representative Couch indicated that the bill was passed out of the Senate twice and not approved by the House. Mr. Hancock indicated that he would be glad to look into what the issues were as to why it was not passed.
Senator Boswell moved that the committee approve the reorganization of the Transportation Cabinet by Executive Order 2008-529, Representative Henderson seconded, motion carried by voice vote.
Chair Collins noted a letter dated July 2, 2008, to the committee from Secretary of the Transportation Cabinet, Joe Prather, clarifying questions which were raised by Senator Williams at the June meeting concerning the cash balance comparison differences in the November 2007 and April 2008 cash forecast models.
Chair Collins also noted that the Legislative Research Commission would be meeting, Wednesday, August 6, and would be considering the co-chairs request to meet in Owensboro on September 25 and 26, 2008. Chair Collins recognized Jody Wassmer, Owensboro Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Wassmer said he hoped that the Commission would approve the request to meet in Owensboro in September and that members are invited to a dress rehearsal performance of “Frost Nixon” at the River Park Center on September 25. Mr. Wassmer indicated that admission to the performance was free, casual dress, and wives are welcome.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at approximately 2:35 p.m.