By Sen. Brian Munzlinger, R-Williamstown
Ensuring our transportation system continues to be safe for Missourians remains an important topic in Missouri and to me. Recently, as a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, I heard testimony regarding the efforts the state must take to protect our infrastructure. Likewise, as a commissioner of the Missouri Emergency Response Commission, I constantly review Missouri’s response planning to a state disaster in order to protect the lives and property of Missourians.
In all emergencies, planning, information and prevention are key. This is why I want to draw attention to the efforts underway by rail industry to ensure safety when it comes to rail transportation. Cities, counties, states, the federal government and railroads across the country are working together to ensure that an already safe mode of transportation continues to be safer through training and response planning.
Over 20,000 first responders receive training every year at the Security and Emergency Response Training Center (SERTC) in Pueblo, Colorado, including hundreds of first responders from here in Missouri. SERTC is a collaboration between the rail industry and the Federal Railroad Administration, where responders get hands-on experience with simulated hazmat incidents. Additionally, web-based training is available for responders who cannot travel to Colorado and the railroads themselves provide emergency response training in cities across the country each year, and several in Missouri.
Massive railroad investments are also breeding innovations that enhance safety. Last year U.S. freight railroads launched the AskRail mobile app, which gives emergency responders immediate access to accurate information about the materials traveling in trains so they’re able to make informed decisions about how to respond to rail emergencies. App users can search by railcar to see what is traveling in a specific car, view the contents of the entire train, view emergency contact information for the railroads and for Amtrak, as well as see emergency response protocols for the materials on the train. Nearly 6,000 first responders across the country have this app installed on their smartphones.
Additionally, railroads are installing positive train control technology on tracks carrying hazardous materials or passenger rail traffic. Railroads, software companies, signal and switch manufacturers and construction crews have been working since 2008, spending over $5 billion in private dollars to invent and install this unprecedented technology.
Of course, all modes of transportation can always be safer and that is why the continued massive private spending by freight railroads on their networks is good news. Investments that improve capacity and efficiency on the rail network better connect Missouri farms to the global marketplace—a point of keen personal interest for me given my farming background and chairmanship of the State Senate’s Agriculture Committee. But there are also tremendous safety benefits to these investments, as noted by the Association of American Railroads in this weeks newly released special report on the state of the industry with respect to safety.
As railroad investments have grown, it has provided improved efficiency in our rail network. It too has lead to new safety innovations and partnering with all levels of government to make railroads even safer. Investments in transportation infrastructure, like our rail network, are good for Missouri.