(WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team did some digging to investigate who is making sure the trains passing through your neighborhood are safe.
It seems everyone is asking questions about that since the recent train derailment with toxic chemicals in East Palestine.
We came up with a look at who enforces the rules around the rail lines.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio says, last year, just in Northeast Ohio, the agency did more than 1,500 inspections around rail crossings.
Inspectors found “defects” or problems in 11%. During inspections around crossings, crews look at the tracks, signals, signs and what you drive over.
We noticed in Wayne County, crews found issues in about a third of the crossings.
In Cuyahoga County, inspectors found problems in 17%, but in Medina County, just 4%.
The public utilities commission says it also has state inspectors working with the feds overseeing trains and tracks and hazardous materials and more.
So, we also put in a request for records on those inspections. What do they turn up? Even, how often are they done and where?
We met Mary Jane Nottoli in Rocky River. Her grandkids live near tracks, and after the crash in East Palestine, she worries about oversight on the rails.
“I’m not reassured. I’m sorry, but I’m not reassured. I mean, they can say that they’re doing that, but, are they doing it at 100%? I’m not sure,” she said.
The utilities commission says the Federal Railroad Administration oversees rail lines. So, we have to get records on train inspections from the FRA.
Monica Waller, general counsel for the PUCO, sent us a letter in response to our records request about state inspectors working with the feds.
The letter said, in part, “The PUCO does not create or maintain its own records documenting by date, time, and location the involvement of PUCO employees in FRA inspections. Records of these inspections are maintained by the FRA. The FRA expressly prohibits the disclosure of the FRA’s records without the FRA’s express written consent.”
PUCO Chair Jenifer French, though, did talk about the crossings.
“Our inspectors inspect every crossing in Ohio every year. What they hope to accomplish is to make sure these crossings are safe,” she said.
If you’re wondering if more should be done, the people in charge wonder that too.
“I think anybody who is aware of what happened in East Palestine is having conversations about what can be done to make the railroads safer,” French added.
“I think you have to make sure that you protect the public,” Nottoli added.
When inspectors find issues at rail crossings, we’ve found getting corrections made can get complicated. The rail lines belong to a rail company and different government agencies can be responsible for different things around a crossing, such as the signs, the roadway and the signals.
The PUCO says last year, $12 million was awarded to help make improvements at rail crossings.
In recent years, the number of deaths at crossings has dropped significantly.
Here is a look at inspections and the number of findings from last year in 10 counties.
|County||# of Inspections||# of Defects|
Learn more about the East Palestine train derailment here.