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Letter to The Hon. Joseph C. Szabo, Federal Railroad Administration

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

After excessive heat was cited as a factor in the recent Union Pacific train derailment and bridge collapse at the Northbrook-Glenview border, U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) today called for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to step up efforts to ensure that railroads have the proper training, inspection plans and protocol to deal with excessive weather events -- like last week's extreme heat. They also urged FRA to make their investigation into what caused the derailment and bridge collapse open and transparent so that local communities have access to information regarding the safety and welfare of local residents.

"The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has a responsibility to promote and regulate the safety of railroads so freight rail traffic can move safely through communities like Glenview and Northbrook," wrote the Senators. "We encourage you to work with UP and other railroads to make sure they are prepared for extreme weather like we experienced last week. We also encourage you to continue the investigation you have initiated and to work with local and state officials to make sure we have a full understanding of why this happened and can take steps to prevent an accident like this from ever happening again."

The Union Pacific train had three locomotive engines and 31 of its 138 train cars carrying coal derailed. The derailment caused the collapse of the bridge at Willow and Shermer roads along the border of Northbrook, Illinois and Glenview, Illinois which resulted in two fatalities. A train derailed in the same area in November 2009 after hitting another train. Eighteen cars were derailed in that incident.

Text of the letter is below:
July 9, 2012

The Hon. Joseph C. Szabo
Federal Railroad Administration
Administrator
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Administrator Szabo:

We are writing regarding the Union Pacific (UP) derailment and bridge collapse that occurred on July 4, 2012. This accident, which resulted in two fatalities, deserves a thorough and comprehensive investigation to determine the cause of the accident and how such a tragedy could have been prevented. We encourage you to conduct vigorous oversight of UP's rebuilding efforts to ensure any future rail operations at this site are safe.

The 100 plus degree temperatures reportedly played a role in the derailment of the UP train. Union Pacific has cited a "sun kink" or buckling of the track due to prolonged exposure to intense heat, similar to the cause of a mass transit train derailment in Washington, D.C. last weekend. We respectfully request you meet with the railroads to make certain they have the proper training, inspection plans and committed personnel to deal with excessive weather events.
This investigation should be open and transparent. The Villages of Glenview and Northbrook have requested information regarding the investigation and UP's rebuilding of the bridge and track at the derailment location. These communities deserve access to this information to protect the safety and welfare of local residents and businesses.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has a responsibility to promote and regulate the safety of railroads so freight rail traffic can move safely through communities like Glenview and Northbrook. We encourage you to work with UP and other railroads to make sure they are prepared for extreme weather like we experienced last week. We also encourage you to continue the investigation you have initiated and to work with local and state officials to make sure we have a full understanding of why this happened and can take steps to prevent an accident like this from ever happening again.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Richard J. Durbin
U.S. Senator

Mark S. Kirk
U.S. Senator


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