Durbin Calls Together Local Stakeholders to Discuss Rail Safety and Delays

[BARRINGTON] – In response to safety concerns raised by the rapid increase of trains carrying crude oil and ethanol across the country and continued blockages on the tracks running through town, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) convened a meeting with Barrington Village President Karen Darch and local stakeholders to hear their concerns about rail safety and the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway (EJ&E).

“The recent derailment in Galena—and too many other towns—should send policymakers a clear signal: we need to better secure oil traveling in outdated and unsafe tank cars,” Durbin said. “Increased oil traffic through communities, especially along the EJ&E, are causing too many lengthy blockages and are increasing the likelihood of potential fiery rail accidents. It’s one of my priorities to make sure that the rules and laws governing the safety of our rail system reflect the unique circumstances and viewpoints of local Illinois communities.”

Since the acquisition of the EJ&E by Canadian National in 2008, the number of freight trains passing through the cities has quadrupled from about 5 trains a day to 20 trains a day.  The length of the trains has also more than doubled in length. In the first quarter of 2014, the EJ&E experienced 5,267 instances of crossings being blocked by trains for ten minutes or more – the highest number since CN took ownership of the line.

In 2008 STB placed CN under an unprecedented monitoring period to ensure the company fully complies with the promises it made when it acquired the EJ&E rail corridor. In that time, CN has been fined for failure to report blockages along the corridor.  Durbin joined local leaders in urging the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to extend its oversight period of the EJ&E until January 2017, which the board agreed to do last December. The original oversight period was set to expire this January.

The group also discussed a grade separation project to construct an underpass at the intersection of U.S. Route 14 and the EJ&E to alleviate traffic congestion caused by more frequent and longer freight trains.  Durbin helped secure a $2.8 million TIGER II grant for project in 2010. 

Last August, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) released a draft rule to strengthen tank car standards. The Office of Management and Budget is currently reviewing these rules and is expected to finalize its decision sometime this spring.  These rules will determine how quickly the old, weak rail cars are phased out and how quickly—and to what standards—new cars are built and existing cars are retrofitted.  Durbin has repeatedly called for the final rule to be expedited and renewed that request with OMB and DOT last month.