|SURFACE TRANSPORTATION BOARD DECISION DOCUMENT|
|CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAY COMPANY AND GRAND TRUNK CORPORATION--CONTROL--EJ&E WEST COMPANY|
|DECISION REVIEWED THE FINDINGS OF AN INDEPENDENT AUDIT OF REPORTS FILED BY CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAY COMPANY (CN) IN CONNECTION WITH ITS ACQUISITION OF EJ&E WEST COMPANY. THE BOARD CONTINUES TO HAVE CONCERNS, PRINCIPALLY AT 4 LOCATIONS IN ILLINOIS AND INDIANA, WHERE BLOCKED CROSSINGS HAVE INCREASED SIGNIFICANTLY SINCE THE ACQUISITION, RESULTING IN VEHICLE DELAY AND TRAFFIC CONGESTION. THIS DECISION REQUIRED ADDITIONAL REPORTING FROM CN, ORDERS ANOTHER AUDIT TO BE CONDUCTED IN 2011, AND EXTENDED THE 5-YEAR MONITORING AND OVERSIGHT PERIOD FOR THIS ACQUISITION 1 ADDITIONAL YEAR TO JANUARY 2015.|
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|Full Text of Decision|
40961 SERVICE DATE – DECEMBER 21, 2010
SURFACE TRANSPORTATION BOARD
Docket No. FD 35087
CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAY COMPANY AND GRAND TRUNK CORPORATION—CONTROL—EJ&E WEST COMPANY
Decision No. 26
Decided: December 17, 2010
Digest: This decision reviews the findings of an independent audit of reports filed by Canadian National Railway Company (CN) in connection with its acquisition of EJ&E West Company. The Board continues to have concerns, principally at 4 locations in Illinois and Indiana, where blocked crossings have increased significantly since the acquisition, resulting in vehicle delay and traffic congestion. The Board will require additional reporting from CN, order another audit to be conducted in 2011, and extend the oversight period for this acquisition 1 year, to January 2015.
When the Board approved Canadian National Railway Company’s (CN’s) acquisition of EJ&E West Company, it required CN to file reports on operational and environmental matters and established an oversight process. As part of that process, the Board ordered an independent audit and verification of certain information provided in CN’s monthly operational reports. The Board has carefully reviewed the findings of the audit, supplemental reports, and raw data on blocked crossings that the Board directed CN to submit, as well as written public comments on the audit report.
Based on the audit findings, our
primary concern is blocked crossings in certain areas caused by slow or stopped
trains. The impact of the transaction,
thus far, has resulted in an overall decrease in the average number of blocked
crossings. On a monthly basis, blockages
have fallen by 10.8% along the entire former
The Board intends to monitor these crossings closely and to take appropriate steps if improvement does not occur once the ongoing construction and infrastructure projects in the surrounding areas are completed. Accordingly, the Board will require CN to supplement its quarterly environmental reports, as described below. The Board will also conduct another audit of CN’s progress in 2011 and will extend the 5-year monitoring and oversight period for this transaction for an additional year, to January 23, 2015.
The CN/EJ&E Transaction. In Canadian National Railway and Grand Trunk Corp.—Control—EJ&E West Co., FD 35087 (STB served Dec. 24, 2008) (Approval Decision), the Board approved, subject to numerous environmental and other conditions, CN’s acquisition of control of EJ&E West Company, a wholly owned, noncarrier subsidiary of Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway Company (EJ&E). The approval was subject to a 5-year monitoring and oversight period to allow the Board to examine closely various aspects of the transaction, including community concerns about post-acquisition increased delay and blockages at the numerous highway/rail at-grade crossings (places where rail lines cross streets at the same level, rather than going over or under the streets) on the former EJ&E line. As part of the oversight process, CN must file monthly reports on operational matters, including information pertaining to post-merger interchanges, railroad at-grade crossings, train volumes, accidents and incidents, and street crossing blockages. CN is also required to file quarterly environmental reports on the implementation of the Board’s environmental conditions.
In accordance with the Approval Decision, CN has filed monthly and quarterly reports since April 2009. The Board created an oversight website on which it posts the monthly and quarterly reports for the public to view easily and provide comments (www.stbfinancedocket35087.com).
HDR Audit Report & Comments. In light of concerns raised by citizens and communities concerning the accuracy and completeness of CN’s reports, including allegations involving the underreporting of crossing blockages lasting for 10 minutes or more and accidents and injuries occurring on the former EJ&E rail line, the Board tasked its independent third-party contractor, HDR Engineering, Inc. (HDR), with verifying the information contained in CN’s latest reports (at that time, the November and December 2009 monthly reports). The Board directed HDR to investigate and prepare audit reports for the Board on 6 “task” areas of concern: community and agency outreach; train noise and vibration; train volumes and street blockages; vehicle delays and traffic congestion; review of operational accidents; and public grade crossing signs. On April 14, 2010, HDR issued its final audit report, which included technical memos on each of the task areas identified by the Board.
The Board held an oral hearing on April 28, 2010 to obtain an explanation as to why CN’s submissions to the Board on crossing blockages of 10 minutes or more differed from data automatically reported by its own crossing gates and why CN did not disclose that it had such information. The Board also ordered CN to provide supplemental reports and raw data on crossing blockages lasting ten minutes or more (as discussed under “Task 3: Train Volumes and Crossing Blockages” below). See Canadian Nat’l Ry. and Grand Trunk Corp.—Control—EJ&E W. Co., FD 35087 (STB served Apr. 21, 2010) (Decision No. 23). After the hearing, the Board sought public comments on the audit report.
The findings of the audit and comments on each task area are discussed below:
Task 1: Community and Agency Outreach. HDR sought information about CN’s
coordination efforts with communities along the former EJ&E rail line,
including those with which CN has negotiated agreements addressing issues of
local concern. In addition, the Board
developed a questionnaire that was sent to all of the communities along the former
EJ&E rail line between Leithton, Ill., and Kirk Yard in
In its comments on the audit report, filed May 28, 2010, CN asserts that HDR’s final audit report shows that CN is complying with its obligations under the Approval Decision and is cooperating with local communities to mitigate the adverse impacts of the transaction-related increase in rail traffic along the former EJ&E rail line. For communities with negotiated agreements, CN states that it will continue to work closely with these communities to address concerns as they arise. CN avers that it will also continue working with communities currently without negotiated agreements to address their concerns and would work with them to establish quiet zones (whether through the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) or negotiated agreements), provide free emergency hazmat training to interested emergency service providers, and provide communities with the Active Crossing System (ACS) software, a preferred alternative to dispatching monitors. CN maintains that it will include additional documentation in its quarterly environmental reports to detail these efforts. CN notes that it has sent copies of its emergency response plan to the communities that had reported that they had not received it.
Task 2: Noise and Vibration. HDR reviewed anecdotal complaints received by the Board concerning train-related noise and vibration, which HDR sorted into 4 categories: excessive noise, locomotive horn use in quiet zones, ground-borne vibration, and noise from idling locomotives. HDR found that complaints concerning excessive noise, ground-borne vibration, and noise from idling locomotives did not suggest noise and vibration levels substantially different than what the Board’s Final Environmental Impact Statement had estimated. HDR further concluded that a combination of circumstances likely had contributed to the complaints concerning horn use in quiet zones: possible increased horn use at night; obligatory horn use in quiet zones due to workers, equipment, or pedestrians in the right-of-way; or horn use at a crossing located between 2 quiet zones in Barrington, Ill., which may be construed as horn use in a quiet zone.
In its May 28 comments, TRAC urges the Board to review HDR’s findings on noise and vibration, because the audit findings were prepared without field monitoring.
In its May 28 comments, CN states
that it remains willing to discuss noise-related issues with any community,
will respond appropriately to reasonable requests, and will reach out to
communities on noise-related issues. CN
maintains that its use of horns in quiet zones conforms to FRA requirements and
notes the tradeoffs involved in daytime and nighttime operations—that while daytime
operations may reduce night time noise, it will likely result in an increase in
vehicle delays at grade crossings with higher traffic volumes during daytime
Task 3: Train Volumes and Crossing Blockages. HDR sought to determine the accuracy of information reported by CN concerning train volumes and blockages by trains occupying highway/rail at-grade crossings for 10 minutes or more, as reported in CN’s November 2009 and December 2009 monthly reports. HDR found minor inconsistencies between the reported and actual train volumes. The inconsistencies were attributed to CN’s method of transmitting information from its automated data systems to the summaries used to prepare its monthly and quarterly reports to the Board.
More significantly, in the course of investigating crossing blockages, HDR discovered that many of the highway/rail at-grade crossings on the former EJ&E rail line are equipped with “Remote Terminal Units” (RTUs), which transmit information to a dispatching office when a grade-crossing signal system is activated for at least ten minutes. In examining the RTU-generated data, HDR found significant discrepancies between the reported number of crossing blockages (14 blockages in CN’s November and December 2009 reports) and the number of instances that RTUs detected that a crossing signal system was activated for 10 minutes or more for that time period (1,443 blockages, including the 14 instances set forth in CN’s monthly reports). According to HDR’s report (and CN’s monthly reports), CN had only been reporting crossing blockage events caused by a train that was stopped for more than 10 minutes and had not been reporting instances when trains were continuously moving across the crossing during the time the RTU-generated data reported that the crossing signal system was activated for more than 10 minutes.
to HDR’s findings on the reporting of train volumes, CN states that it has
begun using improved methodologies for counting trains and currently is
creating a more automated approach to reporting train counts that should
improve the accuracy of the information reported to the Board. As for crossing blockages, pursuant to the
Board’s direction in Decision No. 23, CN indicated that it has
supplemented past crossing reports with RTU-reported data, and has provided all
available historical RTU data. CN states that its monthly reports, starting
with the report for April 2010, now include all known instances of crossing
signal system activations of 10 minutes or more, whatever the cause. CN adds that several planned capital
improvement projects, which include infrastructure improvements and other
routings that will allow for increased train speed, will reduce the recurring
blockage problems and vehicular delay caused by crossing blockages. To further reduce the frequency and duration
of blockages, CN outlines several intended changes to its operating practices,
including changes to operations in Hawthorne Woods, Ill.,
In its May 28 comments, TRAC contends that CN’s underreporting was a willful effort to mislead the Board and the public and highlights the fact that CN never voluntarily disclosed the existence of the RTU technology. TRAC expresses concern that the number of crossing- blockages will increase once CN operates over the EJ&E rail line at full capacity. TRAC also questions HDR’s capacity as an “independent auditor.” TRAC offers the Board several suggestions on how to proceed, including requiring CN to provide details on crossing blockage frequency once CN is running the former EJ&E line at full capacity and infrastructure upgrades are completed; extending the oversight period; and assigning the audit powers to the Government Accountability Office or to another independent auditor.
Following the issuance of the audit report, United States Senator Richard Durbin (IL) and Representative Melissa Bean (IL) sent a letter to the Board on April 21, 2010, encouraging vigorous oversight of CN and consideration of penalties and fines if CN is found to have violated the Board’s orders. In a letter dated May 28, 2010, United States Representatives Melissa Bean , Peter J. Visclosky (IN), Bill Foster (IL), Donald A. Manzullo (IL), and Judy Biggert (IL), submitted a joint statement, expressing disappointment in CN’s failure to report on all crossing blockages along the EJ&E rail line lasting 10 minutes or more and requesting that the Board impose additional mitigation and extend its oversight period by one year.
On June 25, 2010, CN replied to TRAC’s comments. CN details the limitations of using RTU data to provide systematic and reliable crossing blockage information, including several issues CN has encountered in the process of providing data to the Board. To correct various errors, or otherwise improve the accuracy and consistency of its data submitted on April 26, CN submitted revised data on August 3, 2010.
4: Vehicle Delay and Traffic Congestion. HDR
also investigated concerns involving vehicle delay occurring at highway/rail
at-grade crossings where additional train traffic was expected as a result of
the transaction. HDR examined the RTU-generated
data collected in Task 3 and found that many of the blocked crossings described
in complaints were the ones with frequent blockages of 10 minutes or more,
In its May 28 comments, CN notes that blockages at several of the identified crossings should be reduced upon completion of planned infrastructure improvements.
Task 5: Review of Operational Accidents. After reviewing comments received by the Board that CN was not reporting all train operation accidents and incidents, HDR audited CN’s November and December 2009 monthly reports on accidents and incidents and verified whether the reported information was consistent with the information maintained by the FRA. HDR found that CN consistently reported to the Board accidents and incidents that: (1) resulted in death, medical treatment, or occupational illness to CN on-duty personnel, or (2) involved rail equipment resulting in damage exceeding FRA’s monetary threshold ($8,900 in 2009; $9,200 in 2010) for reporting equipment accidents and incidents. HDR found that CN was not reporting grade crossing accidents or incidents if it did not exceed either of these 2 thresholds. HDR recommended that the Board clarify whether all grade crossing incidents (regardless of the damage cost) should be included in CN’s monthly reports.
CN has since supplemented its prior monthly reports through March 2010, to include all accidents and injuries on highway/rail at-grade crossings, regardless of whether such incidents resulted in injuries to or illness of CN on-duty personnel or rail equipment accidents exceeding the FRA’s monetary threshold. CN further indicates that its April 2010 report and all future reports will include all of this information.
In its May 28 comments, TRAC asserts that CN has failed to include pertinent information in its reports and cites 2 incidents that TRAC contends CN failed to report or understated the severity of the incident. In its June 25 reply to TRAC’s comment, CN states that both incidents were addressed in its reports to the Board.
Task 6: Public Grade Crossing Signs. Finally, HDR looked into CN’s compliance with
Board conditions requiring temporary and permanent signs at each highway/rail
at-grade crossing, as well as concerns that the signs were not visible enough
and that the signs listed different phone numbers for motorists to report
problems. In the audit report, HDR
states that CN acknowledged that different emergency phone numbers appeared on
different emergency notification signs but informed HDR that all the phone
numbers directed callers to CN’s
In its June 25 comments, in reply to TRAC’s initial comments, as well as its second 2010 Quarterly Report filed with the Board on July 12, 2010, CN states that it has installed permanent signs that comply with the requirements of MUTCD. In its initial comments following the audit, and reiterated in its July 28 comments, TRAC asserts that CN’s claims regarding the installation of signage have been disingenuous and inaccurate. TRAC contends that the recently-installed signs fail to meet MUTCD requirements governing the size of emergency notification signs. In response, CN states that TRAC has misinterpreted MUTCD guidelines as they apply to emergency notification signs, and maintains that its signs conform to the guidance and comply with the standards set forth in MUTCD.
RTU Data and Board Analysis. As previously noted, in light of the audit findings regarding the underreporting of blocked crossings lasting 10 minutes or more, the Board, in Decision No. 23, directed CN to immediately begin including all known occurrences of street crossing blockages of 10 minutes or more in future monthly and quarterly reports as reflected in the RTU-generated data, or any other information available to CN. CN was also directed to resubmit all previous reports that omit RTU-data for crossings blocked by moving trains. The Board further ordered CN to submit in electronic format all historical RTU-data in its possession (or otherwise available to it), for any past period for which it was available, for all crossings along the acquired line.
CN submitted the following to the Board on April 26, 2010: (1) summary sheets and complete raw RTU data relating to crossing signal system activations lasting for 10 minutes or more, covering the period from July 20, 2007, to April 9, 2010; (2) all prior blocked crossing reports (February 2009 to March 2010) restated to include added RTU data drawn from the raw data; and (3) CN’s dispatcher spreadsheets from April 2009, when CN first began to use them to prepare monitoring reports, through March 2010. On August 3, 2010, CN submitted revised RTU data to correct various errors in, and otherwise improve the accuracy and consistency of, the information previously submitted. The submission of the revised data also included data from the months of April, May, and June 2010.
The Board has performed its own analysis of the revised raw RTU data submitted by CN, relating to notifications of blocked crossings lasting for 10 minutes or more from July 20, 2007 (the earliest date for which such data has been retained) to June 30, 2010. The submitted data covers the entire former EJ&E rail line, including crossings not covered in the area examined by HDR. The Board’s analysis compared the frequency of crossing blockages 17 months prior to the transaction (August 2007 to January 2009, excluding March 2008, or “pre-merger”), to the frequency of crossing blockages 17 months following the transaction (February 2009 to June 2010 or “post-merger”). The Board also examined the time of day (weekday, weekday evening, weekend, or weekend evening) the blockages occurred.
As shown in Table 1 below, the former EJ&E line experienced 2,218 fewer blockages over the last 17 months, compared to the 17 months prior to the transaction. The total number of blockages lasting over 15 minutes dropped nearly by half, from 8,293 blockages, pre-merger, to 4,895 blockages, post-merger. On a monthly average basis, blockages fell by 10.8% along the entire former EJ&E rail line, with instances of blockages lasting more than 15 minutes dropping nearly 41%, post-merger. The average number of monthly blockages lasting between 10 to 15 minutes increased (by 9.6%); most of these blockages occurred during weekday evenings (7 pm to 7 am) or weekends, with the average number of blockages during weekday hours (7 am to 7 pm) dropping slightly (by 4.2%).
A similar pattern emerges when the
comparison is broken down by subdivision.
See Table 2 below. Along the former EJ&E Western Subdivision
(WSD), which extends south from Waukegan, Ill., to Joliet, Ill., the average
number of blockages per month fell by 16.2%, with the number of average monthly
blockages lasting more than 15 minutes decreasing by 45.1%, post-merger. Along the former EJ&E Eastern Subdivision
(ESD), which runs eastward from
Based on this analysis, it appears that following the transaction, overall, there has been a decrease in the frequency of crossing blockages, particularly for blockages lasting more than 15 minutes. As discussed further below, however, the Board’s analysis shows 4 crossing areas that experienced a significant increase in the average number of crossed blockages lasting 10 minutes or more per month (see Table 3).
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
Findings and Conclusions of the Audit. Overall, the audit findings demonstrate that CN has been working to comply with the obligations imposed by the Approval Decision and cooperating with affected communities to address local concerns related to the transaction. In reviewing the audit’s findings on noise and vibration, we find nothing to suggest that CN has failed to comply with the mitigation conditions imposed in the Approval Decision, or that additional noise and vibration analysis or mitigation is warranted at this point. As previously discussed, CN has submitted more comprehensive accident and incident reports that capture all accidents and injuries on highway/rail at-grade crossings, regardless if such incidents resulted in injuries to or illness of CN on-duty personnel or rail equipment accidents exceeding the FRA’s monetary threshold.
As to the emergency notification signs, we have reviewed the submitted excerpts of the MUTCD guidelines and CN’s August 6 reply to TRAC’s July 28 filing, asserting that CN’s signs are smaller than the current MUTCD guidelines require and raising concerns about the placement of CN’s signs. Specifically, TRAC states that the table designating the minimum sizes for crossing signs and plaques in the MUTCD guidelines requires “signs designated 8B.05” to be between 30 square inches and 48 square inches. TRAC further asserts that CN’s emergency notification signs are located across the track from the traffic it faces and are not legible unless the reader stands dangerously close to the tracks.
The size requirements cited by TRAC apply to Section 8B.05 Stop and Yield signs, and do not apply to the Section 8B.18 Emergency Notification signs that CN has installed in accordance with Voluntary Mitigation No. 9. Voluntary Mitigation No. 9 provides, in relevant part, that for each public grade crossing on the former EJ&E line, Applicants should provide and maintain permanent signs prominently displaying both a toll-free telephone number and a unique grade-crossing number that comply with Federal Highway Regulations at 23 C.F.R. pt. 655. The Federal Highway Regulations, in turn, incorporate by reference the Federal Highway Administration’s MUTCD (see 23 C.F.R. § 655.603(a)). The MUTCD guidelines that apply to emergency information signs at crossings are contained in Section 8B.18, and it appears that CN’s signs comply with the requirements of those guidelines. Section 8B.18 contains no specific size mandates, but rather states that emergency notification signs should be large enough to provide the necessary contact and other information, and that use of larger signs that might obstruct the view of rail traffic or other highway vehicles should be avoided. In addition, CN’s placement of the signs appears to be consistent with the intended purposes of the signs (to provide emergency contact information if a vehicle is disabled in the crossing, or if there is a warning device malfunction or accident), and also adheres to the MUTCD Section 8B.18 standard that emergency notification signs should be positioned so as not to obstruct traffic control devices or limit the view of rail traffic approaching the crossing.
TRAC states that the signs are not always legible to drivers. However, based on the language in Section 8B.18, emergency notification signs are not regulatory or warning signs intended to provide notice to road users of traffic laws or hazards, such as those addressed in Section 8B.05, which necessarily must be large enough to be read by drivers at posted highway speeds. Rather emergency notification signs are intended to provide information for people in stopped vehicles and to do so without blocking road or crossing visibility. While CN’s emergency notification signs appear to comply with applicable law, the Board encourages CN to consider any latitude it may have consistent with Section 8B.18 to accommodate the concerns raised by TRAC about the size and prominence of the signs.
With respect to blocked crossings, the Board is addressing today the outcome of the Board’s April 2010 hearing and CN’s failure to disclose its RTU-generated crossing data in a separate decision. See Canadian Nat’l Ry. & Grand Trunk Corp.—Control—EJ&E West Co., FD 35087, Decision No. 27 (STB served December 21, 2010). CN has supplemented its past reports and continues to provide the RTU-generated data on blockages lasting 10 minutes or more. As discussed below, 4 areas have experienced a significant increase in blocked crossings, which has resulted in vehicle delay and traffic congestion. These delays may be due to construction of transaction-related infrastructure improvements, which should alleviate the frequency and duration of blocked crossings once completed. However, the significant increase in blocked crossings in certain areas is of great concern to the Board. Accordingly, as discussed below, the Board will continue to closely monitor the areas where blocked crossings have significantly increased, as well as the future reports that CN will be filing.
Board RTU Analysis and Conclusions. The Board’s analysis of the RTU data indicates that thus far there has been an overall decrease in crossing blockages, with a drop in crossing blockages lasting over 15 minutes since the date of the transaction. However, the Board remains concerned about 4 crossing areas. These areas, as noted above, have experienced a significant increase in blocked crossings of 10 minutes or more post-merger. While the Board recognizes that construction activities around these crossings have most likely contributed to this increase (and that when the planned infrastructure improvements at those locations are completed, the number of blockages lasting 10 minutes or more likely will decrease), we will continue to monitor closely the following areas.
There is a significant increase in monthly average blockages around
A series of crossings in
The average monthly blockages for a series of crossings in
To keep the Board updated on the blockages at these locations, CN is directed to provide additional information on these 4 crossing areas in its future quarterly environmental reports until further order of the Board. In addition to the information required by Condition No. 2, which includes information on the cause of each blockage lasting 10 minutes or more, as well as how CN intends to reduce the blockages, CN shall include information on the extent to which its construction projects in these areas are contributing to the blockages, the progress of the construction, and, upon completion, how such construction projects will alleviate (or are alleviating) the frequency and duration of blocked crossings, if at all.
As TRAC notes, the number of crossing blockages at other locations along the former EJ&E line is likely to increase once CN operates the former EJ&E line at full capacity. Accordingly, CN also shall provide the above information in its quarterly environmental reports for any additional public crossing areas that experience a 25% increase in average blockages per month during the course of a reporting quarter.
We have decided to conduct a similar audit next year to verify CN’s reports and to assist the Board in monitoring the impact of the transaction. In light of the information learned through the hearing and the audit process, and the ongoing concerns that have been raised by commenters, we will also extend the oversight and reporting period for an additional year.
During the course of CN implementing its operating plan on the former EJ&E line, the monitoring and oversight required by the Approval Decision has and should continue to be a useful mechanism to identify and address potentially significant issues as they arise. The audit process has served as a valuable tool in verifying the information CN has submitted in its monthly and quarterly reports and identifying areas of concern. Of particular significance, the audit revealed the availability of RTU-generated data, which has provided a better picture of how the transaction has impacted affected communities so far. In the months following the acquisition, the EJ&E rail line has experienced an overall decline in crossing blockages, with a more significant drop in crossing blockages lasting more than 15 minutes. However, the Board intends to monitor closely all crossings, particularly those identified in this decision, so that we can take further appropriate action should circumstances warrant.
This action will not significantly affect either the quality of the human environment of the conservation of energy resources.
It is ordered:
1. CN shall supplement its reports as described in this decision.
2. The oversight period for this transaction shall be extended for an additional year, until January 23, 2015.
3. This decision is effective on the date of service.
By the Board, Chairman Elliott, Vice Chairman Mulvey, and Commissioner Nottingham.
 This decision also embraces Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway—Corp. Family Exemption—EJ&E West Co., FD 35087 (Sub-No. 1); Chicago, Central & Pacific Railroad—Trackage Rights Exemption—EJ&E West Co., FD 35087 (Sub-No. 2); Grand Trunk Western Railroad—Trackage Rights Exemption—EJ&E West Co., FD 35087 (Sub-No. 3); Illinois Central Railroad—Trackage Rights Exemption—EJ&E West Co., FD 35087 (Sub-No. 4); Wisconsin Central Ltd.—Trackage Rights Exemption—EJ&E West Co., FD 35087 (Sub‑No. 5); EJ&E West Co.—Trackage Rights Exemption—Chicago, Central & Pacific Railroad, FD 35087 (Sub-No. 6); and EJ&E West Co.—Trackage Rights Exemption—Illinois Central Railroad, FD 35087 (Sub-No. 7).
 The digest constitutes no part of the decision of the Board but has been prepared for the convenience of the reader. It may not be cited to or relied upon as precedent. Policy Statement on Plain Language Digests in Decisions, EP 696 (STB served Sept. 2, 2010).
 Approval Decision, slip op. at 26.
 The Board intends to address the outcome of the hearing and CN’s failure to disclose its crossing data in a separate decision.
 Prior to the
hearing, on April 21, 2010, United States Senator Richard
Durbin (IL) and Representative Melissa Bean (IL) sent a letter to the
Board. Following the hearing,
 A quiet zone is a segment of track along which locomotive horns need not be routinely sounded. The Federal Railroad Administration requires railroads to sound horns at highway/at-grade crossings unless a quiet zone has been established.
 In Decision No. 24, served August 30, 2010, the Board reopened the Approval Decision to modify Condition No. 18 to require the installation of ACS in lieu of the closed-circuit television systems at specific at-grade crossings.
 The RTUs record when crossing gates are down. The RTUs generate fax reports that are sent directly to the railroad dispatching desk that controls the rail line. When the gate down time exceeds 10 minutes, the RTU sends a time-stamped fax to the train dispatcher. When the crossing gate is raised, the RTU sends another fax to the train dispatcher indicating that the gate has been raised, along with the time that the crossing gate went up. The total elapsed time is then calculated and archived.
 Several of the
conditions imposed in the Approval Decision address crossing blockages
of 10 minutes or more. Condition No. 2
requires CN to report “the frequency, cause and duration of train blockages of
crossings of 10 minutes in duration or greater, listing each delay and
including any notifications from persons affected by the blockage and the time
of the beginning and end of each delay.
[CN] shall summarize the cause of each type of blockage that [CN]
self-report[s] and shall state how [CN] intend[s] to reduce the incidence of
all blockages not attributed to emergencies or weather-related incidents.” Approval Decision, slip op. at
73. Condition No. 3 requires CN to
distribute to communities adjacent to, or intersected by, the former EJ&E
line the contact information for the railroad’s community liaison to ensure
that the railroad is “aware of the highway/rail at-grade crossing blockages
lasting 10 minutes or more.”
 CN submitted this data on April 26, 2010.
 The Board’s analysis excluded data from July 2007 because it did not include blockages for the entire month. The Board also excluded data from March 2008 due to the abnormally low number of detected activations. In a letter dated August 3, 2010, which CN submitted with its revised RTU data, CN explains that in March 2008, many of the RTUs on the former EJ&E rail line were not working because they were being converted from analog to digital technology.
 Appendix A presents a complete comparison of road crossing blockages, including a breakdown comparison of blockages at different times of the day.
 Appendix B presents the breakdown of
blockages by subdivision. In addition to
the Western and Eastern Subdivisions, information is provided for the H Yard
 We note, however, that these changes have been measured during a period that included an overall economic downturn and a concomitant decrease in rail traffic. It is unclear as of yet whether this improved crossing trend will continue as traffic trends upward with improving economic conditions. The Board will continue to examine this crossing data as part of the oversight process in order to detect any trend changes due to the economy. In addition, as discussed further below, the Board will conduct another audit for 2011.
 Appendix C
contains a table and graphs comparing pre-merger and post-merger crossing
blockages (average per month), broken down by specific crossing and
milepost. The table in Appendix C shows
that Old Locks Road also experienced a significant increase in the number of
average monthly blockages lasting 10 minutes or more. Old
 The Board has imposed several mitigation conditions to address noise and vibration, which involve CN establishing and maintaining Quiet Zones (Condition No. 8; Voluntary Mitigation Nos. 3, 4, and 5); implementing noise mitigation measures (Voluntary Mitigation No. 77); minimizing construction-related noise (Voluntary Mitigation Nos. 78 and 79); maintaining and inspecting trains and rails to determine ways to reduce noise and vibration (Condition No. 26; Voluntary Mitigation Nos. 80 and 81); complying with decibel limits set by the FRA (Voluntary Mitigation Nos. 3, 4, and 5); implementing noise mitigation measures (Voluntary Mitigation No. 82); installing or relocating a Wheel Impact Load Detector on the EJ&E rail line (Voluntary Mitigation Nos. 3, 4, and 5); implementing noise mitigation measures (Voluntary Mitigation No. 83); notifying the U.S. Department of Energy Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory of potentially significant operational changes that may affect the laboratory’s vibration-sensitive equipment (Condition No. 27); and documentation and reporting of efforts to mitigate noise and vibration (Condition No. 28).
 Specifically, Section 8B.18 states:
01 Emergency Notification (I-13) signs . . . should be installed at all highway-rail grade crossings, and at all highway-LRT grade crossings on semi-exclusive alignments, to provide information to road users so that they can notify the railroad company or LRT agency about emergencies or malfunctioning traffic control devices. [FIGURE OMITTED] 02 When Emergency Notification signs are used at a highway-rail grade crossing, they shall, at a minimum, include the USDOT grade crossing inventory number and the emergency contact telephone number. 03 When Emergency Notification signs are used at a highway-LRT grade crossing, they shall, at a minimum, include a unique crossing identifier and the emergency contact telephone number. 04 Emergency Notification Signs shall have a white legend and border on a blue background. 05 The Emergency Notification signs shall be positioned so as to not obstruct any traffic control devices or limit the view of rail traffic approaching the grade crossing. Guidance: 06 Emergency Notification signs should be retroreflective. 07 Emergency Notification signs should be oriented so as to face highway vehicles stopped on or at the grade crossing or on the traveled way near the grade crossing. 08 At station crossings, Emergency Notification signs or information should be posted in a conspicuous location. 09 Emergency Notification signs mounted on Crossbuck Assemblies or signal masts should only be large enough to provide the necessary contact information. Use of larger signs that might obstruct the view of rail traffic or other highway vehicles should be avoided.
 In a letter
dated November 11, 2010, CN states that, while its emergency signs comply with
applicable regulations and mitigation conditions, it is working with
 As noted above, this decrease in traffic may in part reflect a downturn in the overall economy and thus an overall decrease in rail traffic for a measurable portion of the reported period.