Railroads Must Look Into Changing Hazardous Rail Routes

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT)- James Kirby lives just a couple of hundred feet from railroad tracks in northwest Jonesboro.

He says he's all in favor of more regulation of the rails.

"I think they should make the laws harder on them," said Kirby.

A new federal law calls for all railroads to make considerations for alternative routes when shipping hazardous materials near or through major cities.

"With the two train derailments that happened right north of us, it could very well happen right here in Craighead County, said David Moore, Office of Emergency Management Coordinator for Craighead County.

Starting July 1st, consideration will have to be made on the part of railroads, as far as what materials can be transported through what major metropolitan areas.

But it's defining what is a major metropolitan area Jonesboro fire division chief Kevin Miller says .. is tricky.

"Jonesboro is a large city in Northeast Arkansas but it's not compared to Memphis and St. Louis, so we might not be considered a major metropolitan area," said Miller.

It isn't until an accident occurs, Moore says, that first responders know what hazardous materials they're dealing with. But, as he says a certain amount of secrecy needs to be in place in a post 9/11 world.

"I have had people sharing concerns about what's running up and down our railroads, and the highways," he said. "There are some dangerous materials on board a lot of the time but it's the world we live in."

The Federal Railroad Administration's rule doesn't require railroads to actually implement alternative routing, just to consider that as an option.

The rule, announced April 16th, is intended to address terrorist threats and accidents, and requires railroad carriers to begin July 1, 2008.

Questions or Comments? E-mail me at rsmith@kait8.com