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As I See It

We deserve to know the condition of our railroad bridges



What kind of shape are La Crosse’s railroad bridges in? The truth is, we have no idea. It is a growing concern in light of the increased shipments of volatile crude oil through our community. But the current rules seem to allow the rail lines which travel over those bridges to keep information about their safety to themselves. U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin is urging railroad companies to provide more information to municipalities about the integrity of their bridges. The response by the Canadian Pacific rail line is essentially, “Trust us.” Rail lines are required to inspect the bridges they travel across each year. But railroads are not required to share that information with the Federal Railroad Administration. And they are not required to make that information available to the public. That is despite the fact that communities throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota are at risk for potential disasters involving crude carrying rail cars. The risk is growing. The number of trains carrying crude oil in the United States has grown from just over 10,000 in 2009 to more than 400,000 this year. Communities along the route deserve to know what type of condition their railroad bridges are in. It is those communities which would have to respond in the event of a potentially explosive derailment. Railroad companies should be required to not only inspect their bridges each year, but also to be forthcoming about their condition.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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