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August 19, 2015

Report urges Pennsylvania, railroads to improve safety along oil train routes

One of the recommendations calls on railroads to voluntarily reduce speed near big cities

More than 60 trains loaded with crude oil travel through Pennsylvania toward East Coast refineries each week. On Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf released a report with 27 recommendations on how to improve safety along those train routes and reduce the risk of an explosive accident involving a derailment or tank breach near a major populated area.

The report, written by a University of Delaware railroad safety expert, says that 18 of the recommendations could be quickly implemented by either the railroads themselves or the state, while the remaining recommendations would be more difficult to implement because they involve outside actors.

One of the recommendations is for trains to voluntarily reduce their speeds to 35 miles per hour when passing through any city with a population of more than 100,000. reported that the railroad company BNSF has already adopted the speed reduction, while Norfolk Southern and CSX have not.

The report also recommended that the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission fill a vacancy it has for the job of track inspector as soon as possible. It may also consider hiring another track inspector on top of that, bringing the total number of inspectors in the eastern part of the state to three.

Other parts of the report examined how often the train routes should be inspected and what kinds of monitoring technology should be put into place. It urged the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to conduct full-scale emergency response exercises along the train routes, and it encouraged Norfolk Southern and CSX to put positive train control on oil train routes "as expeditiously as possible."