City explores route for non-radioactive hazardous materials

Hazardous materials

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Officials with the city of Austin are looking to move non-radioactive hazardous materials off Interstate 35.

This stems from a state requirement for any city that has a population over 850,000. Right now, trucks that carry non-radioactive hazardous materials like explosives, combustible materials, medical waste, dry ice, and paint are traveling I-35 because there are no rules on where they can and can’t travel in Austin.

A KXAN Investigation from last year uncovered the city has talked about coming up with a designated route for these materials since 2013 but nothing has been done until now. One of the big concerns is the potential hazards of a big rig crash. According to the Federal Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, since 2008, there have been 91 spills involving some kind of dangerous truck cargo in Central Texas.

Hazardous materialsFor example, in 2012 at I-35 and Slaughter Lane 2,900 gallons of gasoline mix spilled when a tanker rolled into a grassy median – the driver said he veered to avoid an animal in the road.

To find a route – city officials will use computer mapping technology to avoid areas where a lot of people work and live.

“We are looking at special populations where there are a lot of hospitals or retirement homes, we are looking at where there are environmental features, which there are a lot of in Austin, and also looking at crash rates on the roadways,” said Annick Beaudet, Systems Development Division Manager, City of Austin’s Transportation Department.

But computers can only tell city officials so much – they want to hear from residents Tuesday night about areas that might be best for these materials. An open house meeting is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Ruiz Branch Library on Grove Boulevard.

At this point no proposed route has been designated. The city has 18 months to complete the study before it goes off to the Texas Department of Transportation for final approval.

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