Federal Railroad Administration officials inspected Montreal, Maine & Atlantic’s rail lines in Maine only days before the deadly July 6 train derailment just across the Canada border, but have refused to release any information about what they found.

At the urging of Maine’s two U.S. Representatives, FRA inspectors will return to Maine later this week to take a closer look at the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway lines. The rail company has about 500 miles of rail line in Maine.

Spokespeople for U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud said the representatives were unaware of the previous inspection and neither had requested or seen a report from that inspection. When asked Tuesday whether they thought the report should be released immediately, Michaud and Pingree said they will ask about the report when they meet with FRA officials on Thursday in Washington, D.C.

“We’ve passed along the request to make inspection reports public and have been assured that they will be responsive to requests for information that are made,” Michaud’s spokesman, Ed Gilman, wrote in an email response. Michaud is on the House transportation and infrastructure committee and its subcommittee on railroads, pipelines, and hazardous materials.

Both Michaud and Pingree said they advocate another inspection of the rail lines.

“We asked for inspections of not just the tracks, but the tank cars and all the other parts that make up the infrastructure,” said Willy Ritch, Pingree’s spokesman. “We want to see the results of those inspections to see whether they match up with concerns that have been raised about tank cars and about whether the tracks are suitable.”

Gilman said the congressman’s request for an inspection was meant to be more comprehensive than the periodic routine inspections done by the Federal Railroad Administration.

FRA Spokesman Kevin Thompson would not answer general questions Tuesday about how this week’s inspection will be conducted or about what investigators would look for. He also declined a request to allow a Press Herald reporter to observe the inspection.

In response to questions about what would happen if the inspection turned up anything of concern, Thompson said that “any abnormalities or federal safety violations must be immediately addressed by the operating railroad at their own expense.”

Thompson also would not comment on the previous inspection on the MM&A tracks that was conducted in late June and early July.

Asked whether a report from that inspection existed, Thompson said the information would be released only if the newspaper filed a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act, which allows public access to federal records.

The Portland Press Herald submitted a request on Tuesday for all 2013 inspection reports involving railroad lines in Maine, but did not receive an immediate response. By law, federal agencies must respond to FOIA requests within 20 days.

So far, the investigation into the catastrophic derailment that devastated the Canadian town of Lac-Megantic has focused mostly on the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic engineer who was responsible for applying brakes to secure the 72 freight cars full of crude oil.

No mention has been made of the conditions of the rail lines along that stretch or whether track conditions could have been a factor in the accident. The tracks enter Maine about 10 miles from Lac-Megantic in Franklin County, cross into Somerset County and go east from Jackman to Brownsville Junction, before going north.

Because the derailment occurred in Canada, the primary investigation has been centered there and is being conducted by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. FRA has no jurisdiction across the border. If the accident had happened in Maine, it would have triggered an automatic and comprehensive investigation of the tracks.

However, the crash has put a spotlight on rail safety in general. Because the train involved is owned by MM&A, based in Hermon, Maine, both Michaud and Pingree sent a letter last week requesting that the FRA inspect the state’s rail infrastructure and oil transport through the state.

The fact that the train was carrying volatile crude oil when it derailed has also added to the concerns about rail safety. In 2011, only 25,000 barrels of crude were shipped through Maine. In 2012, that jumped to 5.2 million barrels. In the first five months of 2013, 3.4 million barrels had been shipped.

“We believe an appropriate response to this tragedy is to gain a full and complete understanding of the existing infrastructure being used to transport crude oil and gas in Maine,” Pingree and Michaud wrote in their letter to FRA officials.

Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of MaineToday Media, which publishes the Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel and Portland Press Herald.

In addition to the federal probe, Gov. Paul LePage has directed the Maine Department of Transportation to conduct an independent review of all freight safety records compiled by the rail administration. A 2006 review by the state transportation department found that more than 90 percent of Maine’s 1,100 miles of railroads are not equipped to handle the weight of rail cars loaded with oil.

Danny Gilbert, president of Rail Safety Consultants in Roanoke, Va., said he was not surprised that such a catastrophic event has prompted scrutiny of the entire industry’s infrastructure.

“I would venture to say some of the reaction is going to be knee-jerk,” he said Tuesday. “Sometimes politicians come out and say ‘We’re going to change this,’ but you really don’t change anything. There are rules are there to prevent things like this.

“At the same time, though, it can be a wake-up call for any areas that might be faltering.”

Montreal, Maine & Atlantic President Ed Burkhardt has asked federal officials to hold off on inspecting the tracks in Maine until the crash investigation is complete, but the FRA announced Monday that it would begin its inspection Thursday.

The FRA regularly conducts unannounced inspections as part of its Automated Track Inspection Program (ATIP). Thompson said regular inspections have helped lead to a 42 percent decrease in train derailments nationwide, but just a 14 percent decrease in Maine in the last decade.

Even with regular inspections, a June report by the Government Accountability Office, the watchdog agency for the federal government, revealed that the Federal Railroad Administration has 470 inspectors in its headquarters and regional offices, and 170 state inspectors. By comparison, the U.S. rail system consists of 760 railroads with 230,000 employees and 200,000 miles of operating track.

Because the railroad administration is so small compared to the industry, the railroads themselves are the primary guarantors of safety, the report said.

Gilbert, who has worked in the rail industry for nearly 50 years, said he doesn’t think a lack of scrutiny by federal officials is the problem.

“Every railroad has its own safety procedures and most are pretty good,” he said. “What I’ve read about this accident is that it was a human failure.”

Burkhardt said Monday that MM&A’s tracks are in “fair to good condition, but not as good as we’d like it to be.” He did not elaborate, nor did he talk about whether MM&A has made infrastructure investments.

The condition and inspections of Maine’s railroads have been a topic of discussion even before the recent derailment. In 2006, the state Department of Transportation published a report that said budget constraints, decreased federal dollars and limited investment by railroad companies threatened to deteriorate the infrastructure.

Last year, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Maine’s railroads a grade of C.

From 2006 through 2012, track conditions were the primary cause of 10 of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic’s 19 derailments reported to the Federal Railroad Administration, although the majority of those derailments were relatively minor incidents without spills or injuries.

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