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Governor Mark Dayton, Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith Visit Saint Paul Park to Talk Railway Safety

6/9/2015 10:14:43 AM

Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith met with community leaders, first responders to discuss rail accident prevention and capacity efforts

ST. PAUL, MN - Today, in response to a collision between an oil train and a semi-truck on Sunday, Governor Mark Dayton and Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith traveled to Saint Paul Park to meet with local officials and discuss the critical need for railway safety investment in the region.
The intersection where the collision occurred was identified in a 2014 study by the Minnesota Department of Transportation as being dangerous and in need of safety improvements. Construction of an alternate access is scheduled to begin as soon as spring 2016 in order to close the crossing.
"Minnesota's crowded railways bring very serious threats to the safety of citizens throughout our state," said Governor Dayton. "Unfortunately, the very limited transportation and bonding bills agreed to by House Republicans do not fund improvements in many of the most dangerous rail crossings in the state. I will continue to support investments that improve railway safety throughout Minnesota."
Every day, trains carrying oil and other hazardous materials pass through Minnesota. These trains present real risks to public safety and our natural resources. During the 2015 legislative session, Governor Dayton proposed a railway safety funding package to strengthen Minnesota's ability to prevent train and car collisions, and allow first responders to respond quickly and effectively in the event of a collision or derailment. By improving safety precautions and disaster preparedness, these efforts would improve the safety of Minnesotans living near railroads carrying hazardous materials.
"The recent collision in Saint Paul Park between an oil train and semi-truck underscores the continued need for rail grade crossing safety improvements statewide," said Lt. Governor Tina Smith. "This past session, Governor Dayton and I proposed a budget, which would have funded critical infrastructure projects and disaster preparedness initiatives. Unfortunately, little of it was enacted this spring by the Legislature."
Minnesota has 4,444 rail route miles used by twenty different railroads, which annually move more than one trillion tons of freight through the state. Minnesota's share of rail transportation exceeds the U.S. average by almost 30 percent. By 2030, rail traffic in Minnesota is projected to grow 25 percent to 40 percent.
On Minnesota's most highly traveled routes, oil trains pass through more than 683 crossings, travelling through some of Minnesota's most populous communities. Each of these crossings increases the chance of a train or motor vehicle accident, while placing Minnesotans who must travel across the tracks at risk. Increasing oil train traffic from North Dakota has reduced rail line capacity for Minnesota businesses and led to long backups in our communities, while motorists wait for trains to pass.
Governor Dayton's Railway Safety Proposal
Governor Dayton developed his railway safety proposal after holding seven railway safety meetings across Minnesota, hosting a railway safety summit last fall, and conducting a statewide survey gathering the input of local community leaders. His recommendations were based on the input of Minnesotans, emergency managers and first responders, and experts at the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Governor Dayton's proposal included:
  • Four Major Grade Separations - Governor Dayton's bonding proposal included funding for four major grade separations in Coon Rapids, Moorhead, Prairie Island, and Willmar. Improvements at these rail crossings, which are heavily congested and considered particularly dangerous, are urgently needed and require major investments.

  • 71 Infrastructure Improvements Statewide - The Governor's proposal funds 71 additional railway safety improvements at rail crossings across Minnesota. A comprehensive list of these projects, which were chosen by MnDOT experts based on their levels of danger and congestion. /governor/assets/fact_sheet_rail_projects_tcm1055-100678.pdfA comprehensive list of those projects is available online.

  • Better Training for First Responders - In order to adequately prepare for potential derailments or railway disasters, the Governor's proposal funds additional training measures for first responders and emergency managers across Minnesota. Specifically, the proposal includes the construction of a new multifaceted training facility at Camp Ripley, which would simulate response scenarios related to the transportation and storage of hazardous materials, including Bakken oil.

  • More Quiet Zones - The Governor's proposal would provide funding to help establish new quiet zones in communities located along busy rail lines.

  • A New Rail Office Director - The Governor's proposal included a Rail Office Director who would position Minnesota to play a larger role in addressing freight rail service and safety issues in the state. This would allow accelerated and expanded delivery of grade crossing safety improvements, expanded rail safety inspection, and enforcement of rail safety regulations and rail planning.
  • /governor/assets/fact_sheet_rail_projects_tcm1055-100678.pdfFACT SHEET: A comprehensive list of the 71 statewide railway safety improvements that would be funded under the Governor's proposal.

  • /governor/assets/2015_06_09_map_hastings_ave_1st_st_crossing_tcm1055-100679.pdfMAP: A map of the Hastings Avenue and 1st Street Crossing in Saint Paul Park.
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