MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Community members in northeast Minneapolis are calling for increased rail safety. Their fight falls on the second anniversary of the oil train disaster in Canada that killed 47 people.
Rail safety improvements have been made in the last year. There are more train inspectors and funding for first responder training.
But, people who live and work near oil train routes said Tuesday their lives are put in danger every day and they’re tired of it.
On June 30, five Minnesota railroads filed emergency response plans with the Pollution Control Agency as required under a 2014 State oil transportation safety law. But the problem is they haven’t been made available to the general public.
Lawmakers said Tuesday they can read the documents, but are not allowed to make copies or email them.
They didn’t release many details about those plans, only saying they lay out how much emergency response equipment would be available and the time frame railroads would take to respond in the event of an emergency.
“Rather than taking a posture of negotiation and resistance at the Legislature when we’re talking about finding the resources to address congestion, to address the crossings, to address these points of conflict,” Senator Scott Dibble said.
“There have been numerous oil train explosions across the country over the last two years,” Rep. Frank Hornstein said.
“And we started to learn that our homes, our schools, our senior centers, our day cares are in that blast zone,” Cathy Velasquez Eberhart with Citizens Acting for Rail Safety said.
The community group, Citizens Acting for Rail Safety, is banding together to make changes and a difference in their neighborhoods. It formed in the latest few months and is reaching out to communities up and down the rails to develop creative responses to the problem of high hazard freight trains.
Members have a list of seven demands that include banning freight trains that haul oil, ethanol and other hazardous substances through population centers and environmentally-sensitive areas and requiring railroad companies to disclose their worst-case scenario disaster plan and train route selection plan.