Senator Durbin pushes to avoid another tanker tragedy, fighting unsafe DOT-111 railroad tanker cars

December 18, 2013 (BARRINGTON, Ill.)

The I-Team investigation found that suburbs from Elmhurst to Elgin are at risk because these tankers pass right through their neighborhoods and downtowns. This one part of a tanker train spotted last week next to Midway Airport.

The problem is that the tankers are susceptible to rupture and explosion in a derailment. As the I-Team revealed, this is a problem the government has known about for 20 years.

Now it's a problem that needs to be addressed quickly according to Illinois Senior Senator.

It has taken a series of derailments and the deadly explosions that followed, to get Washington's attention.

The I-Team reported in late October that government officials knew two decades ago that the skin of these tankers known as DOT-111's was too thin to withstand many derailments.

Even faced with more and more of these tankers hauling crude oil on North American Rails, nothing has been done yet. So, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin has heated things up.

A letter from Mr. Durbin sent Wednesday to administrator Quarterman cites the potentially catastrophic spills of hazardous materials that are transported by railroad tank cars through Illinois towns where millions of innocent people are living next to rail lines. These people ultimately bear the brunt, Durbin writes, of the consequences following an accident.

Senator Durbin, on Wednesday night, is asking for swift federal rule changes to prevent or reduce catastrophic accidents such as this one last summer in Canada, where 47 people were killed when tankers derailed and blew up.

''People often ask me in this job 'what keeps you up at night?' An incident like the one that occurred in Quebec is really one of my nightmares,'' said Cynthia Quarterman, a U.S. Hazmat administrator.

The recipient of Senator Durbin's letter spoke on Wednesday at an emergency meeting last August following the horrific Canadian crash.

Since then, the leaders of several Chicago suburbs - including Barrington and Aurora - that have regular freight train traffic have pressed for tankers to be taken out of service until they can be made safer.

Senator Durbin's letter points to Barrington and Aurora as communities experiencing the sudden increases of hazardous material rail traffic and the need for real-time freight information in those communities. The Department of Transportation railroad rulemakers are expected to decide in early 2014 reagrding what to do about the tanker safety problem.

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