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.
The marked increase in railroad tanker oil transportation coupled with multiple derailment incidents across the United States has raised concerns in recent years. Though Minnesota has not suffered any major derailment catastrophes, four derailment incidents that occurred recently elsewhere have convinced some lawmakers that it’s better to be proactive and act now before a tragedy occurs.
Of the budget that has been proposed for the plan, about $75 million has been earmarked for four cities; Willmar, Coon Rapids, Moorhead and Prairie Island. The plan also allows for the building of a training facility that specifically targets rail and pipeline first responder disaster training.
Railroad companies have expressed their displeasure with the proposal because it’s paid for by essentially revamping and increasing railroad property taxes by including rail cars, trestles and rail bridges as taxable property. In addition new assessments by the government on Class I state general obligation bonds would also be used to pay for the proposal.
While most lawmakers are in agreement that the railroad crossings are in need of the proposed improvements, many oppose the plan because they disagree with the funding for it, arguing it imposes undue hardship on railroad companies. Their opponents on the other hand argue that the increased danger from the dangerous and hazardous materials traffic that travel through the state should not be shouldered by their constituents but by the railroad companies that profit from shuttling them through their communities. According to state figures, a minimum of seven and sometimes up to nine trains carrying oil from North Dakota travel across Minnesota every single day.
Source: CBS Minnesota, “Gov. Dayton, Democratic Lawmakers Unveil $330M Rail Safety Proposal,” Ali Lucia, March 13, 2015