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U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) on Wednesday announced she secured a commitment from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to deploy a new track inspection program in the Casselton, N.D., area, where a BNSF Railway Co. train derailed on Dec. 30, 2013.Heitkamp met with FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo to discuss the need for improved and more frequent rail inspections in North Dakota and throughout the country. Data collected by an Automated Track Inspection Program can be used to improve track integrity and rail safety, she said in a press release.On Dec. 30, a westbound BNSF grain train derailed about one mile west of Casselton, causing an eastbound BNSF crude train to derail and more than 20 cars to catch fire.Shortly after the accident Heitkamp called on the FRA to release information on track inspections near Casselton and review track quality in the vicinity. In addition to the BNSF accident, four other derailments have occurred in the area over the past nine years. The FRA last month issued new rules to improve rail-flaw detection processes."We deserve to know the condition of the tracks that run through our communities, and it's crucial that those tracks are continually checked so our towns and families aren't at risk," said Heitkamp. "It's important the FRA has committed to look closely at the track quality around Casselton, which will go a long way to helping prevent future derailments."The senator is working with federal, state, local and rail industry officials to better understand what happened near Casselton and determine preventative measures, she said.
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