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DOT proposes new safety standards for oil rail cars

Proposals include updating cars, lowering speeds

DOT proposes new safety standards for oil rail cars

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - With recent rail car disasters in North Dakota and Canada, rail car safety has been pushed to the forefront.

Now the U.S. Department of Transportation is out with a group of proposals aimed at making oil rail cars safer.

They proposed toughening the tank car standards, phasing out old cars. They also want to drop speed limits to 40 miles-per-hour and improve the brake systems, all in an effort to keep communities like La Crosse safe.

The Association of American Railroads responded with a statement saying in part, "This long-anticipated rulemaking from DOT provides a much-needed pathway for enhancing the safe movement of flammable liquids in the U.S."

At least one rail safety group says the measures don't go far enough.

Alan Stankevitz co-counded Citizens Acting for Rail Safety, or CARS. For years his group has been pushing for more accountability when it comes to rail safety. "It's so important because it's a different world today, the trains that have been coming down the tracks here for so many years, they had very little hazardous materials, and now we're seeing a complete shift in this with a lot of Bakken oil," said Stankevitz.

CARS would like to see changes to these proposals. "I would like to see the speed limit brought down to 25 miles-per-hour, I'd like to see more robust DOT-111's, I'd like to see some rerouting through other areas, there's a lot that needs to be focused on," said Stankevitz

The biggest concern is the old DOT-111 rail cars. CARS would like to see all old cars off the tracks completely.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe says they have put in a request for five thousand next generation tank cars. They call it a significant voluntary commitment to accelerate the transition to the new cars.

The DOT has opened a 60-day commend period to get feedback on the proposals. They say given the urgency of the safety issue, they do not intend to extend the comment period past 60 days.

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