One hundred minutes. Seems like a long enough time, right? In that amount of time you could drive from Riverside to Rockford. You could watch an entire feature film or the first half of an NFL game.
But when a rail tank car filled with an explosive material is lying on its side in a pool of burning crude oil, 100 minutes becomes a very short time.
That’s what has Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel spooked enough that he’s been lobbying federal officials to increase tank car safety standards in order to prevent a potentially apocalyptic event should one of the “bomb trains,” which rumble through Riverside, Brookfield and North Riverside every day, derail.
Federal officials, in a ruling issued in November, argued that the safety measures being called for to ensure tank cars within a burning pool can withstand the heat for 800 minutes actually won’t perform as advertised. Federal officials want a guaranteed minimum standard, so first responders know exactly how much time they have to evacuate an area and secure a scene.
For now, that guaranteed minimum time is going to remain 100 minutes. Which means, if a train carrying explosive materials derails anywhere near downtown Riverside or Brookfield, you’d best be getting the hell out of town and hope that the 500 gallons of foam available in Forest View or maybe whatever can be hauled in from Midway Airport is enough to contain whatever hazard exists.