Thursday, March 29, 2007

Trestle Rebuild Speed Needed for Parkway Clean Up

Assuming the railroad is as much concerned with the future use of the Parkway as the community is, we would expect to see as rapid a clean-up process as possible to get people and bikes once again moving through it in the affected area.

Editorial: Hop to it, UP
Railroad should speed cleanup efforts
Published 12:00 am PDT Thursday, March 29, 2007

Wow! Who knew a railroad could move so quickly? Just 12 days after a huge fire destroyed one of its key Sacramento area trestles, Union Pacific had erected a steel structure to replace it. Freight trains are rolling again. The first passenger train will cross the rebuilt trestle Sunday, with regular Capitol Corridor commuter service back in place Monday.

The trestle's breakneck reconstruction was an impressive logistical feat, and UP deserves much of the credit. Railroad crews worked around the clock to get that crucial span operating again.

Prompted by the governor's office, state regulatory officials helped, too, waiving or expediting the permitting process so that the railroad could move as fast as it did. There was reason. UP's rail corridor through Sacramento is one of the most important on the West Coast, connecting the busy Port of Oakland with the rest of the United States. Some 50 trains a day normally crossed that trestle. Its loss impacted commerce nationwide. Getting it back into operation quickly was essential.

So here's the question: Now that UP has demonstrated its ability to move swiftly and efficiently when its own economic interests are at stake, can it move just as quickly to clean up the mess its burned trestle has created? Tons of debris laced with cancer-causing chemicals must be disposed of. Creek beds and soils have been contaminated and vegetation destroyed. Officials are testing to see if groundwater supplies have been tainted as well. Remediation efforts need to begin immediately.

Equally important, the trestle runs through a portion of the heavily used American River Parkway. While freight trains are rolling over the new trestle even ahead of the railroad's initial ambitious construction schedule, the parkway below the trestle remains off limits to bicyclists and hikers.

Just as the trestle is an important commercial corridor, the parkway is an important recreational and commuter corridor for this region. The state and the railroad need to protect those interests as well.