Railroad Safety Changes

By: Nisha Jindal
By: Nisha Jindal

May 15, 2005
After a seven-year attempt by a South Carolina House of Representatives member to change the way railroads travel through our community, the Secretary of Transportation is finally listening.

Member of the House of Representatives Roland Smith is doing everything he can to get better rail safety. Monday afternoon Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta will hold a press conference in Columbia to address just that. But, Smith says it took the chemical spill in Graniteville to get someone to act.

“Unfortunately it seems as though they just closed their ears to the problems and concerns that people had for their safety,” said Roland Smith

Roland Smith has been leading the fight to change the way trains go through Aiken County.

“We’ve been writing letters, we’ve been meeting with folks from Norfolk Southern, South Carolina Department of Transportation, we’ve been pushing from both levels attempting to improve safety,” Smith said.

He started the fight back in 1998. But, since the deadly chemical spill in January killed nine people and left hundreds sick, he’s been pushing the issue even harder.

“I’m hoping the community will be notified of what’s on those trains,” Smith said.

The one thing Smith is hoping Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta will address in Monday’s press conference is the right to know what kind of chemicals these trains are carrying.

“The rescue people will know exactly what’s there so they’ll be able to go in and rescue people and know how to deal with the contents,” Smith said.

Mineta will hold the press conference in Columbia, South Carolina.

“I think it’s quite unfortunate the Secretary of Transportation is meeting in Columbia to talk about this when the accident occurred in Graniteville, SC,” Smith said.

Mineta is supposed to address hazardous material transport, railroad crossing safety, and human error in train operations. But, Smith won’t be satisfied until he knows exactly what’s traveling through the community.

“I think it’s incumbent upon us to continue this battle until we know what’s on those trains coming through our community,” Smith said.

Smith says if Mineta does not tell government officials what’s on the trains, he won’t stop pushing the issue until that happens.

Smith says he would like to see crossing guards on every railroad crossing in Aiken County. He would also like to see the trains travel even slower. But, the main thing is he wants to know what chemicals are traveling through our community.


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