Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor train is the chauffeur-driven commute for thousands in the Sacramento region.
But those runs to the Bay and back may soon be sharing the rails with something that could turn those trips of ease into trips of angst.
“That could be scary. It might deter me from taking the train,” rider Mary Pierschbacher said.
Those fears are about Valero’s plan to send up to 100 train cars full of a highly flammable crude oil through downtown Sacramento every day.
The cars would be traveling on Union Pacific lines through Roseville, West Sacramento, Davis and on into Benicia to a proposed rail terminal at Valero’s refinery there.
Tempers flared at public meetings in Benicia as the company and homeowners debated the potential threat that could be rolling through neighborhoods.
“Our crew, the railroad and the community is clearly capable of responding to an incident that happens,” Valero’s Chris Howe said.
Late notice of the impact in the Valley sent reps from targeted cities into a Thursday meeting at the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.
Mayors and emergency responders plan to draft a letter of concern to Valero.
“We can’t plan for every eventuality, but we need to know what the range of possibilities are so we can make the appropriate preparations. And if we can’t then we need to raise our voices and object to the project,” said West Sacramento Mayor Chris Cabaldon.
“I think we still have a lot of work ahead of us to come to to a real solution, but i think we’ve taken some good first steps today,” said Rick Martinez, Fire Chief of West Sacramento.
The plan for more crude to ride the rails is a way to keep pace with increased fracking in places like northeastern North Dakota in the Bakken oil fields.
The trouble is that explosion in production is bringing to the surface oil that is lighter and more flammable than other types.
Bakken crude was in the 72 runaway train cars that derailed and exploded in Lac Megantic, Quebec last July – killing 47 people and decimating the town’s center.
If a crash like that happened along the Capitol Corridor route through Sacramento, the new Kings arena could be just one of many city investments destroyed.
And as of right now, crews forced to respond would have little information about how many rail cars were filled with what.
“For our first responders who are supposed to be taking care of the emergency…it doesn’t help with even less information for them to go on,” said Adams.