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Summit on Rail Safety Scheduled

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In hopes of preventing serious train accidents like the one at Seacliff, the Ventura County Transportation Commission on Friday unanimously approved plans to host an eight-county summit on rail safety.

The meeting will take place Oct. 30 in Simi Valley.

Commissioner Jim Dantona, who requested the session, said invitations will be extended next week to transportation officials in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Imperial counties.

The purpose of the summit, Dantona said, will be to formulate a list of recommendations for improving rail safety that would be forwarded to state and federal lawmakers.

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“My concern is that we have a united effort, a united front,” Dantona said. “I think we will certainly get more attention that way than to go at it sporadically, county by county.”

Dantona said he would like to see legislation requiring that tank cars carrying hazardous chemicals be double-hulled and painted certain colors for identification purposes. In addition, he said he would like to require spacing out rail cars carrying substances that react violently if mixed.

Commissioner Vicky Howard asked that the rail summit be expanded to include truck safety, but the panel decided it would be too difficult to cover both issues at once.

Los Angeles County transportation officials said Friday that they would probably attend the meeting.

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In addition to county officials, representatives of the Southern Pacific Transportation Co., the California Department of Transportation and the Ventura County Fire Department, as well as a number of other emergency service organizations, will be invited to next month’s meeting.

“The real value of this kind of meeting is to further communication between people,” said Michael Furtney, a spokesman for Southern Pacific. “It makes it a lot easier to deal with when there is a problem.”

Concerns over rail safety regulations were prompted by two accidents in July involving Southern Pacific freight trains.

The latest derailment occurred at Seacliff on July 28 and resulted in the spilling of 440 gallons of hydrazine solution, a suspected carcinogen that can be lethal if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. The accident forced the evacuation of the area and the closure of a 10-mile stretch of the Ventura Freeway for four days.

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Two weeks earlier, a Southern Pacific train derailed at Dunsmuir in Northern California and spilled pesticide into the upper Sacramento River, killing all animal life in a 45-mile stretch of the waterway.


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