A newly passed ordinance barring rail shipments of hazardous materials through the District of Columbia raises the risk of a catastrophic accident or terrorist attack in Maryland and other states with CSX lines as the dangerous cargo is rerouted around the nation’s capital, according to railroad officials.
CSX Corp., the train operator most affected by the law that Washington Mayor Anthony A. Williams signed, says that unless the measure is reversed, it will likely cause backups and bunching of chemical tank cars at its rail yards in Baltimore, Cumberland, Philadelphia and Richmond, Va.– places where hazardous cargo would be segregated and diverted to outlying routes, including through Tennessee. “Such an aggregation of standing tank cars may very well present a greater security risk than individual cars moving in numerous trains,” CSX warned in asking the Surface Transportation Board to void the law. The ordinance bans “ultra-hazardous shipments'” within 2.2 miles of the Capitol for at least 90 days.
Two trade groups, the Association of American Railroads and the National Industrial Transportation League, concurred with CSX and added that the need for emergency preparedness would increase in small cities along miles of alternate, less suitable rail lines.
The District of Columbia said in its response that such costs and delays are balanced by the benefit of avoiding a terrorist attack on the nation’s capital.
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