Add Steven LaTourette to the list of people who consider hazmat rail routing to be a matter for national, not local, authorities. At a June 13 hearing, LaTourette (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Railroad Subcommittee, said he opposed attempts by local authorities to ban hazmat rail shipments within their jurisdictions for safety reasons, thereby forcing railroads to reroute that freight.
Given the limitations of the nation's rail infrastructure, LaTourette explained, what might seem like a purely local decision could actually have national repercussions. "The rail system is not as extensive as our highway system, and diverting a train from one urban area would just as likely send it through a number of other urban areas," he said. For that same reason, rerouting a shipment around one city in an attempt to minimize risk could actually have the opposite effect, he argued. "In some cases, hazmat trains would be forced to use lesser-quality tracks through more difficult terrain."
LaTourette further charged that rerouting shipments would force trains to travel hundreds of additional miles. That's in no one's best interest, he said. The best route for any hazardous materials shipment is, quite simply, the shortest route.