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Ky. starts new rail tracking system

(The following story by Stephenie Steitzer appeared on The Louisville Courier-Journal website on August 2.)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — CSX Transportation has begun sharing information with the state so officials can track trains carrying dangerous cargo.

The information is expected to help prevent terrorist attacks and improve the response to accidents such as the January derailment of a train carrying hazardous material that forced 500 Bullitt County residents from their homes, officials said.

"It will greatly improve rail transport security in the commonwealth," Gov. Ernie Fletcher said during a press conference yesterday in the Capitol Rotunda. "This information is critical for homeland security, obviously. It will also be critical for emergency responders."

But some critics say tracking dangerous cargo will not prevent it from being used as a weapon of mass destruction.

"You can know where a product is and that's all well and good, but unless you've taken specific measures in providing for the security of that transport, it's a non-issue," said Mike Brown, deputy director of the Louisville Metro Emergency Management Agency.

Officials say the program will cost taxpayers nothing.

After the press conference, officials demonstrated how the CSX information will be used at the state's intelligence-sharing office, dubbed the Fusion Center.

Tom Murta, director of infrastructure protection with CSX of Jacksonville, Fla., showed that there were 1,061 trains running yesterday afternoon in 23 states.

He also pointed out on a computer screen that trains carrying hazardous material were passing through Eastern Kentucky and Russell County in south-central Kentucky.

The train in Russell was carrying compressed gas, such as propane tanks, and was headed toward Indianapolis.

Alecia Webb-Edgington, director of the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security, said the state has set up radiation detection equipment in weigh stations and eventually would be able to similarly track tractor-trailers that are hauling dangerous materials.

"Anytime you have increased information and intelligence … it allows us the opportunity to make citizens of the commonwealth more secure," she said.

Friday, August 3, 2007

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