Kingston >> Mayor Shayne Gallo says he’s pretty much convinced that freight trains passing through the city are doing so safely.
Gallo said he came to that conclusion after meeting Thursday with CSX Corp. officials who outlined various measures taken to prevent accidents.
The mayor said he wanted “to make the public aware” that CSX assured him it is doing everything it can to protect “the health, safety and welfare of our city,” through which roughly 50 trains pass each day.
Gallo said safety assurances given to him by the railroad giant made him feel a “little more” confident that “they are doing their due diligence to ensure the safety of our city.”
Freight trains and the cargo they carry have been prominent in the news in the wake of derailment disasters involving DOT-111 oil tanker cars. A July 2013 accident in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, caused an explosion that killed 47 people and destroyed much of the town center. In North Dakota, a December 2013 accident near Casselton forced the evacuation of more than 2,000 people.
A train made up mostly of empty oil tanker cars had a minor derailment in the town of Ulster on Feb. 25. Two engines and a car carrying sand came slightly off the tracks near the Boice’s Lane crossing, but there was no fuel leaks, no fire or explosion and no injuries. CSX was fined $10,000 in that case, though it was for failing to report the derailment in a timely manner, not for the accident itself. (The fine also covered CSX’s failure to report a similar minor accident in the Albany area.)
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is a vocal proponent of phasing out DOT-111 cars, which are prone to rupturing in accidents. At the very least, the New York Democrat says, the cars should be retrofitted to make them safer.
Gallo said CSX is working with federal officials and companies that own the DOT-111 cars to retrofit them.
He also said CSX officials told him the company has invested $1 billion in new rail equipment and employee safety initiatives, including GPS devices and on-board cameras that monitor the speed and the operation of trains.
Additionally, the mayor said, “every day, before the trains go on the tracks … they have to be certified that they are fine, before they leave the yard.”
Gallo said CSX also conducts unannounced inspections of train operations and employees to determine if they are operating under “standard operating procedures.”
“Every 45 to 60 days, they send out what is called a ‘geometry train,’which checks the width of tracks to make sure it is safe and (securely) in its place,” he said.
Gallo also noted CSX is carrying out a $1 million storm drainage project off Wilbur Avenue, near the city’s sewer annex building. The project, Gallo said, is being done to prevent flooding and make the tracks there safer.
“It will help with stormwater management, but it also ensures those (train) cars will be intact and safe,” Gallo said.
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