Minnesota residents should be interested to know that answers are still being sought as to the reason behind an Amtrak train accident that took place in Philadelphia approximately two weeks ago. The train was travelling through Philadelphia on its way to New York City when the front end derailed after entering a curve causing the train's seven cars to go completely off the railroad tracks and crash.
Since 1974, the federal government has allocated funds to the State of Minnesota to pay for its Railroad-Highway Grade Crossing Safety Improvement Program. The Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Rail Administration Section and the Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations work cooperatively with the counties, cities, townships and railroads to maintain and update the state's railroad-highway transportation infrastructure.
Minnesota residents have likely heard and read about the increased rail traffic in the Twin Cities. This recent boom in oil production is from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota, and oil companies have had to resort to transporting the oil to refineries via railroad. Once the oil is pumped and collected, it is transported for further processing to refineries that are located on the East and West Coasts, as well as the Gulf of Mexico.
Transporting crude oil by rail is not a new phenomenon. It has, however, increased markedly due to the ever-increasing rate of oil production in recent years, which has summarily outpaced the capacity of the existing pipeline infrastructure. The only other feasible alternative is to transport the excess oil by rail.
According to recent media reports Governor Dayton has proposed a plan that calls for major railway safety improvements for railroad crossings across the state. If adopted and passed by lawmakers, the plan would cost the state over $330 million over the next ten years.
Due to the natural gas production boom that has been experienced in North Dakota, the state of Minnesota has experienced a surge in train traffic travelling on its railroad tracks. This surge in railroad traffic has drawn the attention of the Federal Railroad Administration because of the nature of the potentially hazardous chemicals that are being transported.
Minnesota residents should be interested to know that an abrupt reduction in the number of workers that maintain Canadian Pacific tracks will likely result in increased delays. The reduction was precipitated by the railroad company's management during the restructuring of its Maintenance of Way worker force. The restructuring eliminated and, in some cases, moved essential workers such as welders, utility crews and other crew members that are part of the Maintenance of Way crew.
Working in the Minnesota railroad industry is inherently more dangerous than other industries because of the nature of the industry itself. This is due to the fact that there is a disproportionate mismatch between railway locomotives and the human body. When they come into conflict, the human body does not stand a chance, the locomotive will always win out.
Train accidents and train safety have become a hot topic ever since the movie Unstoppable came out in 2010, which depicted a train out of control pulling rail car after rail car carrying dangerous chemicals at break neck speeds through densely populated human communities.
There is a serious oil boom occurring in our neighboring state o f North Dakota. The fracking occurring in Bakken has helped increase the amount of U.S. crude oil production. In 2008, there were 5 million barrels produced each day. That number is expected to increase to 8.5 million barrels by the end of this year.