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Substandard Bridges Could Lead To Ridgefield Park 'Bomb Train' Disaster

Residents gather and demonstrate their opposition to Bakken Oil Trains being transported over New Jersey bridges.
Residents gather and demonstrate their opposition to Bakken Oil Trains being transported over New Jersey bridges. Photo Credit: Arthur Augustyn
Assemblyman Tim Eustace speaks to the crowd.
Assemblyman Tim Eustace speaks to the crowd. Photo Credit: Arthur Augustyn
Members of the demonstration are concerned that these two bridges in Ridgefield Park are in substandard condition and shouldn't be used to transport Bakken crude oil.
Members of the demonstration are concerned that these two bridges in Ridgefield Park are in substandard condition and shouldn't be used to transport Bakken crude oil. Photo Credit: Arthur Augustyn

RIDGEFIELD PARK, N.J — A crowd gathered in bitter low temperatures on Sunday, but they'd prefer the cold to the explosive heat that could occur without their protests.

The demonstration in Ridgefield Park was against the transportation of Bakken crude oil through New Jersey, the same oil that would have been used in the Dakota Access Pipeline.

"We’re very concerned that the crude oil is going over bridges that are not in good shape," said Paula Rogovin, chair of the Coalition to Ban Unsafe Oil Trains.

Although their overall goal is to "keep oil in the soil," if the oil is going to be used they want to ensure local infrastructure can transport it safely.

The two bridges in Ridgefield Park were intended to be refurbished using money from New Jersey's Transportation Trust Fund. According to the group, the money was relocated for other projects and the refurbishments were never performed.

The coalition believes the bridges are in substandard condition based on press reports and speaking to bridge workers.

The group expressed that even if the bridges are technically safe according to local guidelines, they're worth revisiting because of the potential risk.

"It's a matter of risk management," said Rob Gllies, vice president of the Board of Trustees for Hackensack Riverkeeper.

"It's like your car brakes, thickness of a dime and you're ok but does that make you feel better?"

Speakers at the demonstration included Assemblyman Tim Eustace. Some speakers referenced Lac-Megantic, a town in Quebec, Canada that in 2013 had a train with Bakken crude oil derail causing a massive explosion. Forty seven people were killed.

According to Rogovin, Bakken crude oil is significantly more volatile than other oils.

"[Towns and schools] are taught to evacuate the area," Rogovin said.

"They let these fires burn out because you can’t put them out."

A potential fire could greatly impact New Jersey.

"Bergen County is the densest part of the densest state. We need to make the people in Trenton who are denser than that understand that," Director of New Jersey's Sierra Club Jeff Tittel said.

This demonstration was one of many planned.

"Unless we fight for them to be fixed and money to be invested in infrastructure it’s not going to happen," Rogovin said.

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