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Published on Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Ad Hoc Freight Rail Committee has First Meeting

AWC’s Ad Hoc Freight Rail Committee met for the first time on June 18 at the Annual Conference in Spokane. Committee meetings will be scheduled for August, October, and November. The Committee will develop policy and appropriation recommendations to address the rail issues identified by cities and towns. Committee members were also interested in AWC serving as a conduit of information regarding actions of federal and state agencies. To that end, watch for announcements in the Bulletin and City Voice with materials linked on our website and upcoming webinars.

Committee members identified city concerns in several areas during the first meeting:

With recent oil train derailments in the US and Canada, communities have also become increasingly concerned with regulatory, emergency preparedness, and safety issues. The public is pushing elected officials at all levels of government to coordinate and communicate to prevent and prepare for these types of incidents, and protect people and the environment from the negative impacts of spills of hazardous materials.

Many urbanized areas along major rail lines experience major disruption from trains passing through at-grade crossings. Examples include, the delay of public safety vehicles; the intersection with truck freight traffic, major highways, and the ferry system – affecting the movement of goods and increasing commute times; and impacts on the passenger rail system. These issues have been exacerbated by the increase in train traffic, the nature of the increased traffic (longer and slower trains), and the general increase in population in incorporated areas.

Other Economic Issues
With the increase in energy shipments, other commodities either do not have access to rail or are experiencing increased delivery times. This is particularly true with agricultural products. Increases in train traffic in urbanized areas is also preventing development of certain parts of cities, and negatively affecting property values.

Process Issues
Many of our cities and towns have been dealing with the railroads since their inception. While there are numerous examples of successful partnerships and cooperation, there is also a tremendous amount of frustration with the amount of time it takes in dealing with the railroad industry. Cities are also concerned about the lack of infrastructure investment by the railroad industry, both in crossings, as well as general maintenance of the tracks and bridges.