Keep up the pressure on trash trains

The trash trains came back, and then they left, and Sandusky should keep trying to get Norfolk Southern Railroad to be a good corpor
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

The trash trains came back, and then they left, and Sandusky should keep trying to get Norfolk Southern Railroad to be a good corporate neighbor.

The cars full of construction debris -- and, it turns out, other people's supposedly shredded medical records and who knows what else -- parked for weeks near Depot Street and other central-city neighborhoods near the tracks until neighbors made noise to the city, and the city made noise to the railroad ... then the cars were moved to the siding running along the main line track west of town, so the people living on Venice Road could enjoy them. Now they're moving out, but it's unrealistic to think they'll go away for good.

What's ironic is Sandusky has to deal with a problem that neither begins here nor ends here. The trash originates from New Jersey and ends up in a landfill in Ottawa County. The main track leads right through Sandusky, and the sidings in Sandusky are where the cars wait before that last leap across the bay.

Part of the reason for the problem is that railroad land is railroad land, and the laws protecting interstate commerce let the railroads do a lot of things about which local governments can do little. So it's been since the iron horse went west, and so it is today.

Although last week's effort solved the immediate problem, more needs to be done. Better ways can be found of making sure train cars get where they need to go, and better ways can be found of storing trash in train cars when they can't be moved right away.

And local governments can continue to push every button they can to get the railroads' attention. It might be working in Ottawa County, where Sheriff Bob Bratton got the railroads' attention with threats of arrest and is now talking with railroad decision-makers about how to keep crossings clear.

Sandusky should do more of what apparently worked last week. Grab the railroad by the nose and insist it talk and listen. Make it too expensive to not listen, if it comes to that. The railroad has its job to do, and it's a job we need it to do, but the railroad can do the job without trashing its neighbor's house.