Every day in the U.S., an average of three trains derail with as many as half potentially carrying hazardous substances. Over 65% of all derailments occurred within the boundaries of cities with 8% of all cities in the U.S. having at least one derailment since 2013.
NLC’s interactive map allows you to easily see the frequency of derailments in your area. With 140,000 miles of track in the U.S. crossing through thousands of cities, towns and villages, rail safety is a concern for residents in communities of all sizes. Unfortunately, train derailments like the one in East Palestine, Ohio, in February 2023, are not isolated incidents, with over a thousand happening each year in the U.S.
How to Use the Map
- When zoomed out, the heat map shows the density and intensity of derailments in terms of the total cost of reported damages and the number of people injured or killed.
- Find a specific city, town or village by using the search icon in the upper lefthand corner to zoom in on locations or the +/- Zoom Controls
- To search by Congressional district, type the state abbreviation in the search bar and select the district number from the drop-down menu.
Local Leaders Call for Federal Action on Rail Safety
In response to the derailment in East Palestine, OH, Congress is considering legislation to make rail transportation safer. The bipartisan Railway Safety Act of 2023 (S.576/ H.R.1674) includes a number of key steps to help ensure rail safety for all Americans, including enhancing safety procedures for trains carrying hazardous materials, preventing wheel bearing failures, supporting firefighters and communities impacted by rail disasters, and more. This legislation was passed by the Senate Commerce Committee on May 8, 2023, but additional action is needed by Congress to pass this bill into law before another derailment strikes.
Recent action from NLC members urging Congress to pass this legislation include:
- Local leaders were joined by Senator Cantwell on Capitol Hill for a press conference urging passage of the bill.
- More than 500 cities, towns and villages signed letters urging Congress to act on rail safety.
- Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and other local leaders held a press conference at one of the most frequently blocked rail crossings in Texas to highlight the need to address blocked rail crossings in communities and pass federal rail safety legislation.
Take Action Today
Want to add your voice? Click here to call your Senator’s office and urge them to pass the bipartisan Railway Safety Act today!
The data for derailments is derived from the FRA Rail Equipment Accident/Incident Report (Form 54). The dataset was downloaded on April 20, 2023 from the US Department of Transportation’s Open Data Catalog. For this visual, non-derailment incidents and derailments in train yards were excluded. Additionally, incidents reported by commuter and passenger rails (except for Amtrak) were also excluded. Incidents with total damage costs up to $1M were grouped together in the smallest bubble size. Congressional district boundaries are based on the current 118th Congress.
National view: This map shows the density and intensity, scaled by the total damage cost, of reported derailment incidents at its default “zoomed out” view.
Detail view: Zooming in to view a state, region, or locality, the map displays bubbles for each individual incident. The size of each bubble is scaled by the total damage cost as a proxy for overall impact and the color denotes whether or not Injuries or deaths occurred as a result of the incident. Clicking on an individual incident bubble opens a card with summary information and the full FRA Form 54 data. Information about each rail line is also available by clicking on the map. The search icon on the upper lefthand corner can be used to zoom in on locations along with the +/- Zoom controls. The Home button returns the map to the national view.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons by Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license. Sources: Esri; U.S. Census Bureau; Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives; Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS); HERE, Garmin, FAO, NOAA, USGS, © OpenStreetMap contributors, and the ESRI GIS User Community
For citation please use:
Ahmed, Zuhayr. (2023) “Interactive Rail Safety Map: Derailments Across the U.S.” National League of Cities. Washington, D.C.