- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 7, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A growing number of trains that each carry at least 1 million gallons of oil from North Dakota have been entering the Twin Cities via the western suburbs on a route that sends them and their hazardous cargo through downtown Minneapolis.

BNSF Railway documents show that 11 to 23 oil trains are passing through Wayzata and St. Louis Park on their way into Minneapolis each week, the Star Tribune reported Wednesday (https://strib.mn/1VCXQWe ). The trains follow a route past Target Field through the North Loop neighborhood and across the Mississippi River at Nicollet Island on their way to eastern refineries.

The trains are being rerouted through Minneapolis due to track upgrades. Most oil trains previously traveled from Moorhead to St. Cloud, approaching Minneapolis through Anoka and Coon Rapids on a route that took them through northeastern Minneapolis and avoided downtown.

BNSF Railway spokeswoman Amy McBeth said the rerouting is temporary as the company works to complete $326 million in capital projects throughout Minnesota. The work is scheduled to end when winter begins.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, who lives on Nicollet Island, said she’s less concerned about trains passing her house than the fact that they travel near Target Field.

“Obviously I wouldn’t want it to blow up close to my house, but I think when you’re talking about the concerns for the public, that’s a much, much more serious concern,” Kahn said.

In July, the railroad said seven to 14 oil trains weekly were using the downtown route, up from zero to three weekly. In September, BNSF said the number rose again to as many as 23 weekly. Oil train traffic on that corridor now exceeds that via northeast Minneapolis, according to BNSF’s Sept. 18 disclosure to the state.

McBeth said the BNSF has a good record hauling hazardous cargo. It has extra track inspections, trackside detection monitors, a voluntary 35 mph speed limit and is investing heavily to improve its rail system, she said. The railroad also has emergency response teams and offers training to local first responders, she added.

Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel said his department is training to respond to an incident. He doesn’t believe the western route is more troubling than others through the city.

“Coming through (the) northeast corridor is just as dense,” Fruetel said. “Anytime you come through an urban area . it certainly has its challenges.”


Information from: Star Tribune, https://www.startribune.com

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