CSX Challenges Law Banning Trains with Hazardous Material from Tracks Near Capitol

New law banned hazardous shipments within two miles of U.S. Capitol; CSX questions constitutionality of the law


WASHINGTON (AP) - CSX Corp. sued the District of Columbia on Wednesday, challenging the city's new law banning hazardous shipments within two miles of the U.S. Capitol.

In a U.S. District Court filing, the freight railroad asked that the law be declared unconstitutional on grounds that it impedes interstate commerce. Federal law requires the company to transport the banned materials, and the city's ban is an ``unreasonable burden,'' the company wrote.

Less than 24 hours after he signed the bill into law, Mayor Anthony A. Williams vowed to defend it in court as a way to protect citizens against possible terrorist attack.

"We have to protect our people, and we've got to step up and do that," Williams said.

D.C. Council members have pressed the company to say whether hazardous cargoes are still routed through the city. While the company may have redirected the shipments away from the rails that run closest to the Capitol, council member Kathy Patterson said they are still running through ``a heavily packed residential area.''

CSX acknowledged that when it voluntarily rerouted hazardous-materials shipments last spring from a rail line that passes by the Capitol, it redirected some of the rail cars onto line that passes through Northeast Washington. But officials denied misleading the city.

"There was never an attempt or an intent to mislead," spokesman Robert Sullivan told The Washington Post.

The Jacksonville, Fla.-based company said it has been very serious about security since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Sullivan said it's most appropriate to coordinate security with federal agencies.

"What you're going to end up with otherwise is this sort of patchwork quilt where you have different communities setting different standards," Sullivan said.

CSX already filed an appeal with the Transportation Department's Surface Transportation Board, but the board has not issued a decision. The company is also expecting to seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in federal court to stop the measure, Sullivan said.