Schumer calls for better upkeep and hazardous materials disclosure on local railways
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is calling for increased rail safety – the impacts of which could be seen in the City of Buffalo.
The September 2017 derailment of a Canadian Pacific freight train under Main and Greenfield streets in Buffalo sparked concerns from local residents and members of the Parkside Community Association. The Association began reaching out to officials, community members, and rail companies – anyone who could help.
“We want to see improvements in safety and proactive regulations to make it safer for the neighborhood,” said Parkside Community Association Board Member Matthew Pelkey.
On Monday, the Association’s cries were heard.
Schumer chose the Parkside rail bridge just south of the intersection of Colvin Boulevard and Linden Avenue to announce he’ll be pushing for more funding in the federal transportation budget to hire new federal rail inspectors.
With rusted metal and deteriorating concrete, the bridge is showing visible signs of deterioration. Companies like CSX – which owns the rail line and bridge in Parkside – are responsible for bridge upkeep, but federal rail inspectors are supposed to ensure that it’s happening. Schumer said there are less than 10 inspectors on the job to monitor the thousands of rail bridges across the northeast U.S. He wants to see the number increased to as many as 40, and said the cost of paying for them is not very expensive.
“One accident that could have been prevented will save the money,” said Schumer.
Upkeep of bridges is not the only concern for Association Board Member Amber Small. “There have been other multiple instances where items rocks have been kicked up from trains as they pass by and neighbors’ windows have been broken, people have been injured. So it’s a much bigger conversation that we have to have about what goes through neighborhoods and how concerning and how dangerous that is,” said Small.
What goes through the neighborhoods is Schumer’s other push. He’s wants CSX, Canadian Pacific and other freight companies to provide more detail about the hazardous materials they may be sending through New York communities like Parkside.
“They tell about crude oil – which they should – but they don’t tell about many others,” said Schumer. “Radioactive waste – that’s sometimes on these trains. Explosives, sulfuric acid, sodium hydroxide, chlorine, peroxide – these are all regularly carried by trains.”
What information is shared by rail companies about what and when hazardous materials are being transported through New York goes to the State Emergency Response Commission. But Schumer said that’s where it ends.
In 2017, the train that derailed in Buffalo was not carrying any hazardous materials, but Schumer said first responders reacting to the incident didn’t know what they were or were not dealing with. He wants SERC to ensure timely information on hazardous materials transport is sent down to the local municipal level.
“In the modern science of firefighting, our firefighters know how to fight different types of flammable and dangerous materials,” said Schumer. “And there’s a different way to fight crude oil than to fight benzene, caustic acids. And if they’re given that knowledge ahead of time, they can be prepared and they know what to do, they can be safer.”