oil-train-rail On the night of March 23, 1989, the Exxon Valdez left the Alyeska Pipeline Terminal, carrying more than 1.2 million barrels of crude oil from Alaska’s North Slope. Three hours into its journey to Long Beach, California, the Valdez grounded at Bligh Reef, in Prince William Sound, rupturing eight of its 11 cargo tanks and spilling some 10.8 million gallons of crude oil.

In the wake of the spill, which still reigns as one of the largest in U.S. history, the American government established the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. The legislation consolidated existing federal oil spill laws and created new requirements for prevention and response. Pacific Northwest states began creating programs to protect coastlines. Pretty soon, the number of marine vessels spilling their slippery black cargo into America’s waters declined. But now, in 2015, oil is increasingly transported by rail, not ships, and Western states are in a vulnerable position, should oil spills occur.

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Rail traffic continued its torrid growth the first week of 2011, with the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reporting freight carloadings were up more than 20 percent versus the same week in 2010, and intermodal (trailers and containers on flat cars) were up almost 9 percent from the first week of 2010.

This comes on the heels of a banner year for freight railroads in 2010. The AAR said the combined increase in total annual carloads and intermodal in 2010 was equivalent to some 20,000 additional trains moving when compared with 2009.

It was one a pretty good year in 2010 for freight railroads.

Although freight volume trailed pre-recession 2008 figures, the nation’s major railroads reported a healthy 7.3 percent jump in carload traffic and a 14.2 percent increase in intermodal (trailers and containers on flat cars).

AAR officials called the 52-week figures “a positive development.”

Carload traffic remains about 10 percent below pre-recession levels, but its rate of growth continues to increase.

U.S. Class I railroad traffic continued its growth trend through the Christmas holiday week, reports the Association of American Railroads.

Carloads were up almost 30 percent versus the same holiday week in 2009, and intermodal (trailers and containers on flat cars) was up more than 25 percent versus the same holiday week in 2009.

The AAR reported that for the first 51 weeks of 2010, carloads are up more than 7 percent and intermodal is up more than 14 percent over the first 51 weeks of 2009.