People in Columbia River Gorge fighting to stop railroad expansi - KPTV - FOX 12

People in Columbia River Gorge fighting to stop railroad expansion

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Train derailment and fire as seen from the air over Mosier in June. (KPTV) Train derailment and fire as seen from the air over Mosier in June. (KPTV)
Protest signs against railroad expansion in the Columbia River Gorge. (KPTV) Protest signs against railroad expansion in the Columbia River Gorge. (KPTV)
MOSIER, OR (KPTV) -

Three months after a fiery train derailment in Mosier, people in the area gathered on Tuesday to protest railroad expansion in the Columbia River Gorge.

The overwhelming opinion at Tuesday's gathering was there is already too much train traffic going through the gorge and residents feel that more would only lead to a repeat of what happened in on June 3.

The images from that day are unforgettable. Sixteen tanker cars of a Union Pacific train derailed in Mosier, igniting a massive fire and spilling 40,000 gallons of crude oil.

Investigators said Union Pacific was at fault and now the company wants to expand there.

However, neighbors and Mosier Mayor Arlene Burns say no way.
 
“We’re still pretty raw from the recent event in June and we know we dodged a bullet,” said Burns.
 
Burns knows her small community is so lucky that no one was hurt or killed in the accident, but she doesn’t want to try their luck a second time. If a new proposal is approved, Burns worries Mosier will get 30 times more rail traffic than it does now.
 
“I mean, four or five unit trains of oil a day coming through the Gorge? Right now we have four a month,” she said. “It’s just incredibly preposterous that this much risk can be put on the communities along the tracks.”
 
Burns is just one of dozens of people who testified before the Wasco Planning Commission on Tuesday, asking for them to deny Union Pacific’s expansion application.

The plan calls for building four new miles of double rail lines in the Gorge, replacing five buildings and making numerous upgrades.

Union Pacific officials said the work would improve safety and alleviate bottlenecking issues – not create more traffic.
 
“This project is not about increased trains,” said Clint Schobitzke of Union Pacific. “This is purely for efficiency and fluidity of the network we operate today.”

But locals like Lyle resident Pat Morgan don’t buy it and she hopes community leaders are listening.
 
“My hope is that our commissioners are conscious enough and aware enough and in awe of the glory and the beauty that they live in and they will say no," Morgan said. 
 
Commissioners may hold another public hearing on the matter or they could vote on the issue within the next couple weeks.

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