I happened to be in Seattle on July 27, the day the Seattle Times ran a front-page story on the oil trains through Washington. Currently, two or three loaded oil trains per day travel through the state, similar to the two loaded trains that are planned to run through Davis.
The previous Thursday, an oil train had derailed in Seattle as it pulled out of a rail yard going five miles per hour. The tank cars were the improved 1232 cars and no spill occurred, but two-thirds of oil tank cars are the DOT-111 Legacy tank cars, which regulators deem unsafe because their thin walls make them prone to puncture.
Even the 1232 tank cars have been known to rupture as they did on April 14 in Lynchburg, Va. Inside each car, of course, is an enormous amount of highly flammable liquid.
The bulk of the article, though, was devoted to the strain that the trains are putting on the rail system. Apparently, the railroad failed to anticipate how traffic patterns would change and one-quarter of grain shipments from the Midwest were running an average of 24 days late in part due to the oil trains. The delays were causing considerable economic burden to farmers.
Here we have passenger and freight trains that will share the same tracks with the oil trains, so I looked in the draft environmental impact report to see how train traffic patterns might be affected between Roseville and Benicia should the oil trains come. There was no mention of any changes to the traffic patterns. Given Washington’s experience, this potential impact should be addressed. The Capitol Corridor indirectly serves the government and many businesses by giving commuters a reliable public transportation option.
For information on the DEIR, you can visit BeniciaIndependent.com. Sept. 15 is the deadline for public comment.
The bigger question, of course, is: Is burning all this oil worth it?