SEATTLE — Train derailments in Washington state have more than doubled in the last ten years.
On Monday, a group of transportation leaders got together in Seattle to discuss recent legislation they believe will reduce the number of derailments, and increase safety.
"Everything runs on the American Railroads," said Herb Krohn who is a train conductor and the Washington State Legislative Director for the transportation union, SMART-TD. "We keep America's freight moving and the commodities moving,"
"What people don't realize is that no one is monitoring the freight on a freight train," said Krohn. He said employees are concerned for their safety specifically because of workforce cuts in the maintenance department.
"We're concerned about not only our safety and the safety of our brothers and sisters that we're working with, but the public and the communities that we're moving our trains through," said Krohn.
There have been 52 Class One railroad derailments in King County in the last seven years.
"Forty trains pass through Seattle every day. During the last three months, over 8,000 cars filled with crude oil have been transported through King County," said Andy Collins who is the battalion chief of the Seattle Fire Department.
According to Washington Senator Maria Cantwell, as the amount of crude oil passing through Washington state has increased, so has the number of derailments.
"Even if a train isn't carrying crude oil, derailments do have the potential to cause harm," Cantwell said.
Cantwell said the bipartisan Railway Safety Act of 2023 would prevent many derailments. The bill would require the use of defect-detecting sensors, make two-person train crews mandatory, give aid to first responders cleaning up and tell cities when hazardous material is being transported.
"It is a weak point here and there are a lot of weak points in America's rail system," said Krohn. He went on to say if nothing is changed, it's likely another catastrophic event could happen.
"It's not a question of if, it's a question of when," said Krohn.
KING5 reached out to BNSF Railway to see what it thought of the Railway Safety Act and is still waiting for a response.
The full Senate still needs to consider the legislation and that date hasn't been set.