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Railroad boom hits environmental, ‘not in my backyard’ snags
Ron Scherer, Christian Science Monitor
As US railroads try to meet demand and reduce reliance on trucks, landowners and environmentalists worry about pollution.
…Burgeoning business is pushing railroads into the middle of sticky environmental disputes. On one side are environmental groups, ranchers, and landowners concerned about potential chemical spills and air pollution. On the other side are rail companies stretched to the limit – barely able to provide communities with goods. Their strategy – with national implications for reducing oil usage – is to carry more of the containers now moved by long haul truckers. But, to do this they need to build more rail yards in places such as Picacho.
Urban areas are also becoming wary about freight traffic moving through their communities. Nine major US cities are considering legislation that would require railroads to reroute hazardous chemicals – a move that would probably require building more trackage in suburban and rural areas. Last week, both the US Department of Transportation and the Department of Homeland Security introduced legislation regarding shipping hazardous materials. And rail security experts anticipate that the Democratic-led Congress will look more closely at the issue.
With large open spaces in shorter supply and business booming, railroads are locked into disputes over land use – even in what used to be the wide-open West.
The strategy of rail companies – with implications for reducing oil usage – is to carry more of the containers moved by long haul truckers. But, to do this they need to build more rail yards.
“We are all an advocate of increased rail transportation in this country because in part it keeps a significant number of trucks off the interstate highway system,” says Cecil Steward, dean emeritus at the University of Nebraska College of Architecture in Lincoln and an expert on sustainability. “However, that does not give the railroads carte blanche to screw up the environment in a similar way the highway system screws it up.”
The scrutiny comes at a time when railroads across the nation are building new rail yards – with local citizens concerned about pollution and additional truck traffic.
(21 Dec 2006)
North Coast Railroad Authority (audio)
Jason Bradford, Global Public Media
Rail roads are much more energy and resource efficient hauling freight and passengers than trucks and personal autos, giving them a potential advantage in a post-peak oil economy. But will societies invest in rail road infrastructure sufficiently? On this program we talk to Mitch Stogner, Executive Director of the North Coast Railroad Authority in northwestern California. In the context of the potential revitalization of service between Mendocino County and the San Francisco Bay Area, we learn about the kinds of budget, political and time challenges facing a large transportation project. Jason Bradford hosts The Reality Report, broadcast on KZYX&Z in Mendocino County, CA.
(4 Dec 2006)
Rail-Volution conference: Building Livable Communities with Transit
The organization has a mission to:
Create a national movement to develop livable communities with transit. Livable communities are those that are healthy, economically vibrant, socially equitable, and environmentally sustainable.
Contributor EDA writes:
Nov 5-8, 2006 was the annual Rail-Volution conference. This year it was held in Chicago. They had a session on Peak Oil. [At the conference papers page], scroll down to: “Oil or Not — Are We in a Transportation Energy Crisis? “
In addition, there are good presentations on Transit-Oriented Development, bicycles, car sharing, etc. – all of which are needed pieces of the puzzle to deal with peak oil.