Feedback: Safety Of Railroad Questioned

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CSX has announced its trains will soon be going 15 miles an hour faster through much of Jefferson County. 

This week Watertown City Councilman Jeff Smith said that has him worried.

"They don't exactly stop on a dime," said Smith.

Smith called on north country Congressman Bill Owens (D. - 21st District) to investigate.

It turns out, Owens already was. 

The congressman talked to CSX officials, who told him train speeds were lowered in the past because the tracks needed work.

"They've gone ahead and rehabbed the track and therefore are going back to the original speed," said Owens.

But Owens has sent letters to federal regulators asking about the higher speed and about the DOT 111.

That's a tank car used on CSX and most other railroads. 

The car has been cited for design flaws leading to easy ruptures - flaws that have drawn more attention after severe accidents like the one in Quebec in July that took 47 lives.

"The two incidents in Canada are drawing attention to it. That's certainly appropriate and that's why we need to reach out to those agencies and get their expert analysis of the situation," said Owens.

We asked CSX what is carried in the DOT 111 cars on their tracks.

Officials issued the following statement:

"First, the line that runs through Watertown serves markets between Syracuse and the greater Montreal area, linking them via CSX's 21,000 route-mile rail network to domestic markets across the United States and to international markets through ports.  It is an important transportation and economic asset for the region.  The line handles about five to 10 trains per day, though volumes can increase or decrease based on the economy and customer demand. 

The speed on the line was 40 miles per hour at one time, but was reduced as demand for service on the line declined.  CSX has done maintenance work on the line in the past year, enabling speeds to be returned to 40 miles per hour as appropriate in order to safely and efficiently service customers in the region.

The change in speeds does not compromise safety. CSX meets or exceeds the track safety standards established by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).  This track is visually inspected at least once a week and it is inspected at least annually by sophisticated equipment that can check the condition and the stability of the rail and track structure.

Prior to implementing the new track speeds, CSX ensured that the track complied with FRA guidelines and that the warning devices at grade crossings were set to reflect the changed speeds.

The commodities carried on the line are similar to what is carried across our 23-state, 21,000 route mile system and the same as have always been carried on that and other lines - consumer goods, chemicals for use in a variety of processes, and other materials.  CSX has a long history of working with emergency responders across its system and does make information about the material handled available to those agencies upon request.

The DOT-111 tank cars that are handled by CSX are owned or leased by the customers and subject to inspections before and during transit.  The DOT-111 tank cars operating today are designed to meet current federal regulatory requirements as well as industry standards.    The federal government establishes the type of tank cars in which hazardous materials can be transported.  Questions about the cars should be directed to the Association of American Railroads."

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Friday, December 19, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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