Since the below article was published, the City of Ozark filed suit against Union Pacific Railroad for the illegal removal of the Oliver Street crossing. Ozark won the law suit in court and the railroad was ordered to replace the crossing at their expense. The STB over ruled the decision stating safety issues. Ironically the safety issues Union Pacific created by removing the crossing, thus preventing the city from maintaining its leased property has cut visibility of oncoming trains down to zero. Prior to the removal of the crossing, trains were visible for a mile away as they approached the downtown tourist area. It is an outrage that the railroad is allowed to put an entire community in jeopardy just to prop up their bottom line.
RE: April 30,2013
MAIN STREET OZARK RESPONSE TO UNION PACIFIC MEETING WITH OZARK CITY COUNCIL
From: Sandy Key, Director Main Street Ozark
Re: Union Pacific/Ozark meeting April 30, 2013
Main Street Ozark has been asked by multiple media organizations for our reaction to Tuesday night’s meeting with representatives from Union Pacific Railroad regarding these issues; (1) regaining downtown access to the Arkansas River and city leased property at Oliver Street (2) the speed of Union Pacific trains traveling through downtown Ozark.
To the issue of access, the answer from Union Pacific has not changed. They removed a city street/rail crossing and refuse to restore it. The meeting was an opportunity for them to prove by what authority they removed the long established crossing and they failed to do so. Main Street Ozark presented overwhelming evidence of Oliver Street, its history, ownership, usage by Ozark citizens and its illegal removal. Union Pacific presented zero evidence to the contrary.
According to FRA statistics derailments far outnumber other types of railroad accidents.
Union Pacific would have us believe safety is their top priority but then why do they continue traveling through downtown Ozark at speeds of 60 mph and boast the authority to run up to 79 mph? After learning the high volume of hazardous materials and toxic chemicals transported through downtown Ozark multiple times daily we believe these speeds are excessive and irresponsible.
Given the high incidence of train derailments and the topographical location of downtown Ozark we reject railroad attempts to lull our city into a false sense of security. Ozark is located in a protected valley which according to local safety officials would seriously inhibit the dissipation of toxic substances in the air should a derailment occur.
Union Pacific correctly stated a number of derailments occur involving slow moving trains. A quick search of Department of Transportation or Federal Railroad Administration website reveals the truer picture. There is a phenomenon referred to as “Harmonic Rock and Roll” which happens between speeds of 12 and 24 mph but is eliminated at speeds above and below that range.
In our opinion 25 mph would be a safe speed for trains traveling through a busy downtown tourist area and would eliminate the risk of a rock over accident.
According to Union Pacific the curvature of the railroad tracks near the Oliver Street area creates an unsafe environment for a railroad crossing. Even though the only thing obstructing the view around the curve is overgrowth on the city leased property which Union Pacific is denying city access to maintain. Are we to believe even though Oliver Street crossed the tracks in view of that curve for well over 100 years with no reported accidents, it’s no longer a safe place to cross? Does anyone really think that people are in more danger of being hit by a slow moving train than a fast moving train? Is it just a coincidence the Oliver Street crossing was removed during the time the new higher speed rail was installed?
High on the list of causes for derailments is excessive speed (especially on curves). Railroad bridges, curves and approaching switches are three major derailment risk factors. All these are located in tandem near the Oliver Street area. How much more at risk is downtown Ozark when all three appear together in a high speed heavy train traffic area?
If safety is really their issue we would ask why they have a lack of concern for our citizens and downtown visitors who are put in jeopardy multiple times daily from Union Pacific trains traveling through downtown Ozark carrying hazardous materials and toxic chemicals at such high rates of speed?
One fact made abundantly clear at Tuesday night’s meeting is the railroad can do anything it chooses and according to them there is nothing we can do about it. They have shown once again their priority is strictly financial and the future of small town America is none of their concern.
Union Pacific is making the assumption a community the size of Ozark with limited resources could not survive a sustained court battle. Since their website regularly boasts of record profits this may well be the case; however they should not underestimate the spirit of this community. Denying Ozark access to the Arkansas River is to deprive our children and grandchildren the economic benefits it can provide for generations to come. We are proud of our river heritage and will not relinquish our rights to it so easily.
Main Street Ozark "Where It all Begins"
300 West Commercial
Ozark, AR 72949
Phone: (479) 667-5337
Fax: (479) 667-0248