At 11:00 am Friday, at the Syracuse train station, two freight trains headed in opposite directions whizzed by each other at a fast clip. Some of the rail cars contained toxic or explosive materials.
Such a sight is unnerving to Sue Burnette who was waiting to board an Amtrack train which often share the same tracks as freight trains. "It scares me. If they crash or whatever, it's going to cause a lot of damage to a lot of people." Burnette told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon.
B urnette says she often thinks about the tragedy in Quebec, Canada on July 6, 2013. A train derailed in the middle of the community of Lac-Megantic. Rail cars carrying crude oil exploded. 47 people were killed.
S purred in part by the horrific event , the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Association of American Railroads recently reached an agreement in which freight trains would slow down when they travel through more densely populated areas. But U.S. Senator Charles Schumer says the agreement does not go far enough when it comes to upstate New York. "They say there should be lower speeds in more populated areas, but the only two they really call for are Buffalo and Albany. We need to slow down in Syracuse, in Rochester in any other populated area along the tracks." Schumer says.
The Senator is also calling upon the industry to phase out the DOT 111 tanker car which exploded in the Canadian tragedy. "We're asking that they make a real effort to start replacing the flawed and sometimes dangerous DOT 111 cars immediately. They're still studying it, but why can't the railroads be pushed to do it now."
Schumer is calling upon the rail industry and government regulators to "go back to the drawing board."
In a related development, Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered what he calls an "inspection blitz" of rail yards throughout the state. The Governor says the inspections are intended to prevent accidents involving the transportation of volatile crude oil being shipped by rail from drilling operations in North Dakota. The Governor says the inspection blitz has already resulted in immediate improvements at some of the state's busiest rail yards.