Dayton wants environmental study on ‘high hazard’ trains in Twin Cities

Gov. Mark Dayton has asked for an environmental review of a railroad proposal that would build a connecting track in Crystal to accommodate more of what he calls “high hazard” train traffic.

If built, oil trains from North Dakota would move through the area, he said.

In a letter to the federal Surface Transportation Board, which must approve the proposal, Dayton says:

“The proposed new connection directly impacts the cities of Crystal, Robbinsdale, New Hope, Golden Valley, Plymouth, and Minneapolis because a high volume of mainline traffic, including High Hazard unit trains originating in the Bakken oil fields, would be diverted onto a lightly constructed and maintained single track line. This traffic would travel through downtown Minneapolis and residential communities that have not previously been exposed to such traffic.”

He asks the board for a full environmental impact statement on the proposal, and wants the state Department of Transportation, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and the affected cities to be involved.

The city of Crystal has also asked the Surface Transportation Board for an environmental impact statement (EIS).

Dayton said that the railroads may seek an exemption to avoid an EIS, and if so, the state wants to weigh in against it.

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Lou Jungbauer on 02/20/2015 - 01:37 pm.

    “High Hazard” oil trains

    Joe:
    Thanks for the note re: Governor Dayton seeking review of proposed connection for ‘high hazard’ train traffic.

    Mr. Buffett / BNSF puts out press releases touting the new and structurally improved tank cars they’re leasing / buying to haul oil across the country. From my biased viewpoint, as one who has done battle with BNSF, Soo Line, etc. for 35 years on behalf of their workers hurt or killed on the job, a significant problem that hasn’t received attention is the deplorable conditions the rail and tracks are in, in far too many places. One can have the best ‘explosion-proof’ tank cars in the world, but if it derails and crashes at speeds that approach 50 mph or more, what can one expect? Ask the Folks in Minot, North Dakota, who awoke in the middle of the night, with orders to ‘get out’, ‘protect yourselves’ when a Soo Line train derailed there. The railroads’ track inspectors are so busy, their daily / weekly inspections are done from a hy-rail truck riding the rails at 20 mph.. RR managers, whose pay is based in part on the average ‘speed’ of the trains in their region, are tempted to delete the track warnings its inspectors file with the FRA ( the Federal Railroad Administration, the governmental watchdog for the nation’s railroads). These warnings, of varying track defects, require the trains to slow down in the area until the defect is repaired. If the problem isn’t addressed, the track is supposed to be taken out of service. Does anyone really believe that a RR will voluntarily remove its track from service, when millions of dollars of oil, or whatever the commodity is, ride across that track each day?
    Those who know realize the system won’t change until there’s a major catastrophe, where a town or large segment of a city is wiped out as a result of a derailment. And then the investigations will begin, and the public will learn there are mile-plus long trains, some hauling explosive liquids, gases, etc., right through the cities and towns of America. And we’ll read how the numbers of track inspectors and repair workers has been cut dramatically, in the name of ‘budget control’. And the Federal inspectors have far more territory than anyone can reasonably expect them to review. In closing, I wonder, how up-to-date is Crystal, or Minneapolis’ evacuation plan? I hope we never need to find out.

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