The News Tribune’s Jan. 6 editorial raises important issues about rail safety, and we share the concern expressed about the recent tragedy in Tacoma.
Safety is the most important thing we do at Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. We invest $95 million annually on grade crossing safety programs. Operation Lifesaver, for example, makes more than 10,000 presentations annually to local communities about rail crossing safety.
The assumption that accidents are up because of increased rail traffic is incorrect. Train accidents per million train miles are down 80 percent since 1980, and the last three years were safest on record for BNSF. And rail traffic volumes today are still lower than before the start of the Great Recession.
Regarding oil, it makes up less than 4 percent of the cargo we transport. Consumer goods and grain make up a much larger percentage of our total volume. Passenger trains make up a much greater percentage, and have grown in frequency more than any other kind of traffic over the past several years.
Singling out one commodity as the culprit reflects an attempt to contort a political argument at the expense of truly educating the public about rail safety.
Train service, whether freight or passenger, must be safe.
(Wallace is a spokesperson for Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway.)