60% of Pittsburghers Live Within Evacuation Zone for Derailment

Mar 3, 2015

Pittsburgh rail system with higher population zones in red
Credit FracTracker

A new report shows that about 4 million Pennsylvanians live within a half mile evacuation zone in case of a train derailment.

The report comes from PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center, an environmental advocacy group, and FracTracker Alliance, which makes maps and analyzes data from the oil and gas industries.

For the report they examined how many people live within the half mile evacuation zone of railroads. They used this to represent the at-risk residents. In Pittsburgh about 60% of the population is at risk.

The U.S. Department of Transpiration estimates that 10 trains will derail every year for the next two decades.

The groups made some suggestions how the government can reduce the risk.

“One is just asking that they go around the highly populated urban areas, obviously that’s less of an option for Philadelphia, because Philadelphia is a destination for a lot of these, but here in Pittsburgh it would be a very common sense measure just to make it clear that the trains need to go around these high population centers,” said Stephen Riccardi, Western Pennsylvania Field Associate for PennEnvironment.

Riccardi also suggests that the trains share destinations and contents to make disasters easier for first responders; rebuild rail infrastructure; and, also doing some refining at the sites to take out highly flammable chemicals.

Governor Tom Wolf and U.S. Senator Casey (D-PA) have advocated recently for the Obama administration to push for higher standards.

“In the end we want to see a world where we don’t have to transport oil by rail or pipeline or whatever. We do want to see a greener economy, but in the short term it’s about making sure that we are getting these safer standards possible,” said Riccardi.