Louisville Mayor Calls for Tighter Railroad Restrictions

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) _ Louisville's mayor has asked federal officials to tighten requirements for railroad facilities where especially hazardous chemicals are kept.

Mayor Jerry Abramson said rail cars that contain toxic chemicals should not be allowed to park indefinitely in rail yards and other sites near industrial areas.

Abramson's comments were in a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The mayor's statements, along with those from individuals, groups and businesses, were recently made public by the Transportation Department in response to several potential changes in railroad security regulations.

The government has declined to release written comments from the railroad industry.

Government lawyers initially decided the industry letters should be released but still are reviewing the matter, said Joe Dalcambre, a Transportation Department spokesman. Dalcambre said he doesn't know how long that review will take.

The public loses out by not having an open debate ``over what makes us safe,'' said Rick Blum, director of OpenTheGovernment.org, a coalition of more than 30 organizations.

Blum suggested that federal lawyers should edit out confidential information and make the rest public.

Tom White, a railroad association spokesman, said some information in its letter to the agency would jeopardize lives if publicized, but he would not say how.

In his letter, Abramson said he also opposed efforts to eliminate placards that identify hazardous materials inside railroad cars.

White said the industry does not favor getting rid of the placard system until a suitable alternative is found.

White told The Courier-Journal of Louisville in September that the placards give terrorists too much information, and said the industry was urging the government to get rid of them.

White told the newspaper that he ``may have misspoken'' in his earlier comments.

Abramson's letter was among about 100 the transportation agency has posted on its Web site.

Abramson spokesman Matt Kamer said the mayor's health, environmental and emergency response administrators ``felt strongly'' that metro government should weigh in.