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Federal Railroad Head Visits Alma Derailment Site

Officials Are Calling For More Safety Measures, Transparency From Carries

Hope Kirwan/WPR

The head of the Federal Railroad Administration was in Wisconsin Thursday near the site of last weekend’s train derailment in Alma, meeting with U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

Two rail accidents in as many days in the state have regulators and lawmakers calling for more safety and transparency measures.

Baldwin is backing legislation requiring railroad companies to make data from inspections accessible to elected officials, as well as create a database for first responders about hazmat trains traveling in their area.

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FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg said railroad companies are beginning to realize the need for greater transparency to ease public concern.

“Look I think the railroads are hearing us, I think that they are starting to understand that absolutely the public has the right to know this information, has the right to have their questions answered,” she said.

BNSF Railway said it’s still investigating why 25 cars were derailed last Saturday, spilling thousands of gallons of ethanol into a national wildlife refuge along the Mississippi River.

Compared to the severity of other train accidents, Feinberg said the derailment in Alma was “lucky” and applauded the quick response from officials in Buffalo County.

“This community is a really good example of a community that knows the kind of products that are coming through their community,” Feinberg said. “(They were) incredibly quick to respond, incredibly quick to engage first responders with the railroad and with the federal regulator, and so it’s been impressive to deal with this community.”

At the event Thursday at the Alma Marina, BNSF Railway announced they will be working to compensate first responders as well as local businesses for the derailment’s impact on the community.