Last year, Canadian Pacific (CP) and Kansas City Southern (KCS) filed a joint merger application with federal regulators to form one behemoth of a railroad valued at more than $31 billion. If granted, the merger would become the only single-line railroad directly linking Canada and Mexico and stretch through the entire central part of the U.S resulting in significantly more train traffic through Minnesota. Particularly, the impacts of this merger will further marginalize communities like the Webber-Camden neighborhood in north Minneapolis. This community is already impacted by long wait times for trains and the health risks that accompany the resulting pollution. With the increase in rail traffic, this merger will exacerbate the quality of life and safety issues associated with railroads that we know so well.
To reach this sky-high valuation, the companies are going to move dangerous crude oil through Minneapolis, St. Paul, and other communities around the state. If you didn’t know, CP is already the largest shipper of oil products through Minnesota. This merger will result in as many as 20 more trains screaming past our backyards and nature preserves every month.
Furthermore, increased railroad traffic could result in accidents and spills of potentially hazardous materials. In 2020, CP had an accident in Minnesota that resulted in upwards of 30,000 gallons of crude oil leeching from the derailed train into the ground. An accident like this not only directly threatens neighborhoods and the wildlife in the Twin Cities, but it also threatens the water we drink. The rail crosses and runs along the Mississippi River, a main source of drinking water for many residents in Minnesota. Continuous and damaging runoff and leaks will only further harm this valuable and vital source.
Additionally, trains emitting diesel pollution can harm the health of members in our community, especially our most vulnerable, including the elderly, children, and people with pre-existing conditions. Leaking chemicals damage and pollute the environment we live in every day. In this case, the leaks can be catastrophic.
The increase in train traffic will also affect day-to-day life. At the very least, we will see increased wait times at train crossings, disrupting our commuter and leisure schedules. Additionally, the increase in train traffic could also threaten our safety. If a member of my community had an emergency that required the response of emergency vehicles, response times could dramatically increase. In some of these cases, we’re talking about a matter of life or death.
Noise pollution is another negative effect of trains. Already in north Minneapolis, residents can hear trains throughout the day. Ramping up traffic will only compound the issue, which has genuine financial implications. According to an Old Dominion University study in 2016, a residential property’s consistent exposure to 65 decibels or greater of railroad noise pollution reduces property value between 14% and 18%. Freight trains emit an average of 85 decibels of sound.
While we watch our property values plummet, these railroad companies will line their pockets with crude oil dollars. While our health and day-to-day lives are jeopardized, the railways will continue moving oil throughout our communities. This railroad merger will bring nothing but pain to our community of north Minneapolis. For these reasons, I oppose the railroad merger between Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern.
Brett Buckner is the executive director of OneMN, a research-based project to provide public policy recommendations that support and propel racial, social and economic equity throughout state, county, and local government agencies, and corporations.