Your Participation Could Help Stop the Benicia/Valero Oil Trains

Richard 2nd St. oil crs 1-9-14 15by Alan Miller
Despite the unanimous decision Feb. 11 by the Benicia Planning Commission against the Valero oil trains, 3 million gallons of highly explosive crude oil could soon be rolling through Central Davis daily on the way to the Benicia refinery.
Valero appealed the Planning Commission decision to the Benicia City Council on Feb. 29, and the council will hear that appeal this month. The hearings will be held:
  • TODAY!!! Monday, April 4th – Anti-Oil Train Rally @6pm, City Council Meeting @7pm
  • Wednesday, April 6th @7pm – City Council Hearings
  • As needed, Monday, April 18 @7pm – City Council Hearings
  • Tuesday, April 19 @7pm –  Hearings & The City Council is expected to make its final decision.
Those familiar with the five-person Benicia City Council say there are two definite pro-Valero votes. This is action time. Davis citizens are needed to make the drive and show your presence at these hearings.
As outlined in my Feb. 28 piece in The Vanguard, Davis is especially vulnerable to an oil train catastrophe. A red-over-green railroad signal aspect indicates to the engineer a divergence between main tracks at 45 mph at most locations on the Oakland-to-Sacramento rail line ‹ but in East Davis, red-over-green indicates the need to slow to 10 mph due to an ancient low-speed crossover near the heart of town.
An engineer may occasionally ³space out² and forget where they are ‹ a condition recognized by the National Transportation Safety Board with the official title of ³loss of situational awareness.² I have twice witnessed Union Pacific Railroad trains passing through this crossover at three to four times the posted speed. You didn¹t hear about it because the trains ‹ barely ‹ stayed on the tracks, and UPRR wasn¹t about to advertise.

This is an issue that matters, for the safety of Davis. Otherwise, Davis may be added to the growing list of places for YouTube videos of burning orange mushroom clouds emanating from crumpled black railroad tank cars.

Be there TODAY! The anti-oil train rally starts at 6 p.m., and the City Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. The location is Benicia City Hall, 250 E. L St. As citizens, you need to have your voice heard to stop the massive increase in explosive cargo through Davis proposed by Valero.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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2 thoughts on “Your Participation Could Help Stop the Benicia/Valero Oil Trains”

  1. tribeUSA

    It seems to me that the 10 mph low-speed crossover should be replaced ASAP with a higher-speed crossover, whether or not the oil trains will be coming thru (there’s plenty of other hazardous cargo).

    I don’t know how much leverage local/county politicians can have with initiating/sparking such a railroad engineering proposal, such changes are presumably governed mainly by the federal NTSB and the rail line operator. I guess it could turn out to be an major/expensive rail engineering project.

    Hope the turnout was good! (I couldn’t get over there at that time)

  2. Alan Miller

    It seems to me that the 10 mph low-speed crossover should be replaced ASAP with a higher-speed crossover,

    Yes, it should be replaced ASAP; it should have been replaced in the early 1990’s when left-handed running made accidents of this sort possible.  I have been leveraging the oil-train issue to bring awareness to the crossover.  The NTSB and FRA failed after I reported the hazard to them in 2009.  I am hoping awareness of the hazard will lead to political pressure to replace the crossover.  It’s not a simple or cheap project, as the ‘pass track’ on the south side will have to be extended east to keep its current capacity.  However, it is totally doable, and with all the flammable and hazardous material that already passes through Davis it is unconscionable that it has not been done.

    Turnout was good, with a bus from Sacramento/Davis arriving with 30+ people and a few other carloads of Davisites, most of whom did get to speak.  The Benicia City Council is obviously much less interesting in asking intelligent questions than the Planning Commission was, who were awesome!  Some of the testimony from the Valero allies is difficult to stomach.

    I missed being able to speak by a few cards, so I’ll be returning Wednesday to give ’em hell.  If anyone wants a ride down, I have a spot or two, leaving at 6pm sharp.

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