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April 18, 2007 11:00 AM, EDT

Diverting Hazmat From D.C. Would Cost $4.3 Bln., Planners Say

Rerouting freight trains around or underneath Washington, D.C., would cost at least $4.3 billion but bring benefits beyond removing hazmat cargo from the area, the Associated Press reported.

The National Capital Planning Commission conducted a nine-month study to determine the feasibility of relocating freight rail traffic, AP reported. The federal agency’s study was funded by a $1 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security.

The study identified three options for rerouting the trains: a tunnel under the District and two routes around the city through Maryland. State officials in Maryland criticized the findings, saying the proposals simply would move the problem elsewhere, AP reported.

A total of 18 freight trains currently travel through Washington, and that number is expected to rise to about 27 in five years, AP said. District officials said the trains, some of which carry hazardous chemicals, are a security threat, a point echoed by the planning commission staff.

The current rail line passes through a major employment area and comes close to the Capitol, the National Mall and the Washington Navy Yard, AP reported.

The Washington, D.C., city council banned rail shipments carrying hazmat from an area around the U.S. Capitol building in 1985, but that ban was been put on hold by a court pending a lawsuit by railroad carrier CSX Corp.

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