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Railroad Accidents On The Decline In Montana

Railroad crossing.
Railroad crossing.

In a year when news of railroad crashes and train derailments from around the country have jumped into headlines, new data show railroad accidents in Montana are declining at a faster pace than most of the Northwest region.

Chris Puyear with the Montana Public Service Commission points to data released by the Federal Railroad Administration last week. It shows that accidents and incidents, like railyard derailments, crashes at road crossings, and equipment malfunctions are continuing to decline.

"Railroad related accidents in Montana have declined by about 55 percent from 198 accidents in 2008, to 90 accidents today," Puyear says.

This decline in railroad accidents coincides with a decade where rail traffic has, "remained steady and at times even increased," according to the PSC.

Out of eight states in the region, only Alaska and Wyoming have sharper declines than Montana in the number of train accidents over the last decade.

Puyear credits the decline in accidents to partnerships between the PSC and the railroad industry  to promote safety education.

A 2015 legislative audit of the Public Service Commission found that, "the PSC’s state rail safety inspection is inadequate."

Since then, the PSC has implemented a plan to improve railroad safety.

Corin Cates-Carney is the news director at Montana Public Radio. He joined MTPR in 2015 and is a graduate of the University of Montana School of Journalism.
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