Following two separate train derailments in Wisconsin over the weekend and one in Des Moines Nov. 9, area lawmakers say rail safety improvements are needed to prevent derailments and protect local communities from potentially catastrophic accidents.
State Sen. Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) and state Rep. Jill Billings (D-La Crosse) urged the Transportation Committee chairs to hold hearings immediately to examine rail safety issues.
“We recognize that the freight rail industry is an important part of Wisconsin’s economy,” the legislators said in a joint statement. “In La Crosse, rail infrastructure has been a part of the city’s history and identity since its earliest days. Yet, the recent increase in rail traffic has led to heightened safety concerns in our community and across the state. Wisconsin residents rightfully want to know what measures are being taken by state and federal regulators and industry stakeholders to ensure meaningful oversight and emergency response readiness.”
In addition, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) wrote a letter to House leadership urging them to immediately bring his rail safety legislation to the floor for a vote.
The Crude-by-Rail Safety Act prohibits the use of unsafe DOT-111 tank cars, such as the ones involved in the Alma derailment.
“The derailments this weekend in Alma and Watertown showed once again the negative impact increased rail traffic is having on our communities and environment. Fortunately, no injuries were reported at either derailment, but dozens of people were forced to temporarily evacuate their homes and nearly 20,000 gallons of ethanol spilled into the Mississippi River,” Kind said. “The increase in rail traffic shows no signs of stopping, which is why we must take immediate action to prevent future derailments. I am calling on House leadership to hold a vote on my legislation which will provide for stronger rail safety standards and will increase oversight.”
Since 2013, there are have been over 30 crashes and derailments across the country involving crude oil or ethanol. In addition to the derailments in Alma, Watertown and Des Moines, the region has been affected by accidents in Slinger, WI, and Galena, IL.