Minnesota: crossing upgrades on oil train routes to cost USD280 million

5 Jan

Minnesota’s Department of Transportation has said that it will cost at least USD280 million to upgrade level crossings along routes where oil trains from North Dakota pose a risk of explosions and fires. This figure is derived from a state congress mandated study which followed accidents in Casselton, North Dakota, and Lac Megantic, Quebec.

Communities within which higher risk level crossings are to be found include St Paul, Red Wing, Moorhead, Benson, Willmar, Wadena, Perham, Elk River, Coon Rapids and Minneapolis. This risk analysis of 100 sites has gone beyond the usual road-rail collision and has considered the risk of explosions and resultant fire balls impacting on the communities within 0.5 miles of level crossings traversed by oil trains.

The greatest risk appears to arise at the Como Avenue intersection with the BNSF right-of-way in St Paul for which grade-separation is proposed at an estimated cost of USD25 million. Another location at which grade-separation is proposed is

State legislators initial positions is that  railway businesses must contribute more than is the norm when level crossing upgrades and grade-separations are pursued. The rationale for this variance from the norm is that in this case the traffic is new to rail and has begun flowing long after level crossings were created.

Between them Canadian Pacific and BNSF are running between 46 and 61 oil trains formed of 100 or more cars each week. Most of these trains pass through the twin cities of St Paul and Minneapolis.

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