Investigators Exclusive: Massive propane tank placed near busy railroad tracks

NEW YORK (WABC) -- An Eyewitness News Investigators exclusive focuses on a hazard by the tracks.

A massive propane tank sits just feet from the busiest rail line in the nation,

An MTA worker reached out to us after his concerns about a thousand pound propane gas tank were ignored by his bosses.

The placement of so much fuel so close to a critical rail link between Washington and Boston has two train safety experts shaking their heads.

For security reasons, we have left out specifics about the tank's location.

The MTA has spent millions educating its riders to speak up if they see something unsafe.

"So remember if you see something say something," riders say in the ad campaign.

And that is exactly what one MTA railroad worker has tried to do repeatedly, telling his bosses about the potential danger of a 1,000 pound propane gas tank placed just feet from train tracks.

"You have to realize the blast radius of a thousand pounds of propane is a very large area," said the whistleblower.

He's right about that as a YouTube video demonstrates with a similar size propane tank.

It makes you wonder who would put so much fuel so close to the busy Northeast Corridor tracks used by Amtrak and Metro North.

Jim Hoffer: "This is a ready-made bomb right next to the track?
Whistle Blower: "For the most part yes. All it needs is a detonation device."

This huge source of fuel was put next to the tracks and passing trains by Metro North. They've been using the thousand pound propane tank as a heating source for a tiny office on an adjacent railroad bridge.

"I've never seen one placed this close to a highway let alone a moving train," said Fred Millar.

Millar, a rail safety consultant, says while the chance that a train derailment or terrorist act would cause the tank to explode may be remote, it's foolish, he says, to take the risk.

"Even if the probability is small that's a significant impact and you have to try to mitigate the potential for that happening," said Millar.

Not only is the tank feet from the tracks, it's easily accessible, right next to a public walkway. And although the gate to the tank is locked, the fence around it is in disrepair and appears to have been tampered with.

"The conditions at the tank itself can make it subject to damage and vandalism that could have tragic consequences," said rail safety expert James Sottile.

That's why this MTA whistle blower is saying something. He's doing exactly what the agency has been urging all of us to do since 9/11.

"It's something that is completely unsafe, it may be a far-fetched scheme but how far-fetched is it when people are bent on hurting and destructing," he said.

In response to our investigation, a spokesman for the MTA says "we will investigate the report and make a determination about any necessary action."

An Amtrak spokesman told us us they are in contact with Metro-North and if there is any cause for concern they will work with them to take appropriate action.
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