Peduto Says City 'Dodged A Bullet' With Derailment, Worries About Trains Carrying Crude Oil

Aug 8, 2018

The Norfolk Southern tracks in Pittsburgh have now been cleared after seven cars from a Norfolk Southern train derailed and crashed into the Station Square light rail stop.

The light rail station remains closed and Port Authority officials can now assess the damage caused by several containers falling from the derailed cars onto the light rail tracks.

According to Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, the city was doubly fortunate.

“It's one thing to have a train derailment.  It's quite another when you can do so without the worry of what the contents are and having no injuries," Peduto said. "That usually doesn't happen."

The contents of those containers included home products ranging from mouthwash to diapers to pretzels.

But what has Peduto concerned is the cargo on other trains that move through the city regularly—crude oil, which hasn’t had the gasoline removed in the refining process.

“The gas is still in the oil which is why some of these trains [that] have derailed they've exploded; oil usually doesn't explode,” Peduto said.

The mayor said Congress should approve a requirement that the crude oil be refined before it’s put on trains.  He said if the train that derailed Sunday had been carrying this type of crude, the results “would have been devastating.”

The containers that fell from the derailed Norfolk Southern cars were "double stacks," meaning one on top of another.  Peduto said he believes because of a higher center of gravity, trains with double stack containers are more likely to tip especially on track with a lot of curves.

The cause of Sunday’s derailment remains under investigation. According to the Federal Railroad Administration's 10-year accident report, the type of freight cars involved in derailments are not specified.

Peduto said he thinks that this accident will intensify debate over Norfolk Southern’s proposal to run double stack trains through the North Side by raising two bridges so the trains can pass under them.  PennDOT is considering Norfolk Southern’s bridge-raising plan, and Peduto admits the city does not have the legal authority to stop them.

“That doesn’t mean we’ll stop trying," he said.