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Opinion: Railroad transport needs reasonable security rules

(The following editorial was posted on the Herald Dispatch website on December 18.)

HUNTINGTON, WVa. -- More than five years after 9/11, the Bush administration has gotten around to developing a plan to prevent against terrorist attacks on trains. The proposal by the Department of Homeland Security would require freight and passenger rail systems to inspect rail cars and keep them in secure areas when not in use.

That sounds reasonable, but Democratic lawmakers say they will push for tighter security standards when they take over Congress next month.

The District of Columbia passed a law in 2005 banning hazardous material shipments within 2.2 miles of the Capitol. CSX Transportation sued; the case is pending. Eight other cities have introduced legislation to ban hazardous shipments, according to The Associated Press. Railroads say forcing trains to take longer, circuitous routes would create a safety hazard by increasing the likelihood of an accident.

This debate is long overdue. Rail transportation is vulnerable to attack, as is barge transport. Both need a thorough examination and realistic security plans.

Monday, December 18, 2006

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