Train Derails, Officials Call For Safety Improvements

Created: 06/13/2014 7:16 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- Across the United States, freight trains make up a $60 billion a year industry, with tracks spanning over 140,000 miles.

And now officials are putting renewed focus on increasing safety for every aspect of the rail industry.

To protect drivers, officials in Minnesota recently announced nearly $8 million in spending to improve signals and other safety measures at railroad crossings throughout the state.

Just last week, a man was seriously injured after his car collided with a train just west of Kasson.

And nationally, experts say someone is involved in a train-related accident every three hours.

"We're trying to get people's minds to think that when they see tracks to think train,” said Sheryl Cummings, executive director of MN Operation Lifesaver, a group focused on improving safety at rail crossings. “Really, inattentiveness is one of the big causes of incidents, but also just ignorance of the laws."

The country's aging infrastructure is also forcing officials to focus on safety for the trains themselves.

On Friday, a freight train derailed in Anoka County, causing traffic delays and damaging about 1000 feet of track.

Thankfully no one was hurt and the cars were empty, but that wasn't the case in December when an oil tanker derailed and exploded in North Dakota.

And last May, heavy rain washed away tracks near Charles City, Iowa, causing a train to derail and spill ethanol and engine fluid into the Little Cedar River.

It's accidents like those that had authorities in Anoka County thankful the cars involved in Friday's incident weren't carrying anything dangerous.

"Obviously if they would have been, we would have had to look at evacuations, we'd look at the weather conditions, different things like that to make sure the citizens of Ramsey and anybody traveling along Highway 10 would be safe,” said Ramsey Police Chief Jim Way.

Following recent incidents, several local lawmakers have called for increased safety regulations for rail lines, particularly for crude oil shipments which have increased across the state.

Officials are putting renewed focus on increasing safety for every aspect of the rail industry.