Governor and Residents Share Concerns Over Railroads - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Governor and Residents Share Concerns Over Railroads

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With hundreds of cars moving through many communities daily carrying Bakken crude oil and other hazardous materials, leaders gathered Tuesday with the Minnesota governor to talk about about their safety concerns with the railroads. Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL) visited Moorhead, meeting with emergency responders, the mayor, and other local leaders across the area to hear what they want to see done to make communities along those busy rail lines safer. This was the governor's fourth statewide railway safety meeting. They also discussed Minnesota's new railway safety laws.

The new laws were passed this past legislative session and include increased oversight of railroad companies, more railway inspectors and inspections. It also provides better emergency response training and preparedness for communities along the railways. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety works with training, funding and reporting.

"This whole system looks to be overloaded and it happened so rapidly. Everyone is trying to put a band aid on it. We really need to see what it will take to fix it for the next 10-20 years to have a capacity to accomplish what we need to accomplish," said Gov. Mark Dayton. "Everybody says the federal government can't do anything. My approach is 'Let's figure out what we want to do, what we can do and push the limits.' We will see what remains."

The meeting was open to the public and many citizens told the governor they are concerned about the rail speeds, length of trains and having the oil cars sit in the train yards. Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams even told the governor that the train traffic has divided their city and has caused some traffic problems. She wants to see the traffic congestion relieved.

Valley News Live had the opportunity to speak with a business along the train tracks before the meeting and the business owner says it is time for a change.

"Now it's all these dangerous chemicals coming through and maybe it is time for a change," said Moorhead Dairy Queen Owner Troy Deleon.

The Moorhead Dairy Queen is a staple in the community and every day outside their windows they see trains pass by. Although the owners understand why more trains are going through, they are concerned a derailment could happen right here in Moorhead. 

"This is our main livelihood; the Dairy Queen. It would absolutely destroy us and not only us, but all the other businesses right close to the railroad tracks. It would affect everybody," said Deleon. 

Deleon says he has seen an many car accidents from the traffic back up when trains go through. He wishes the railroad companies would just find an alternative route around the F-M community.

"I would forget about the diversion and divert the rail road track outside of town," said Deleon. 

Right across from the tracks north of Main Avenue is the Moorhead Fire Department and they are preparing for crude oil emergencies. One firefighter has already trained with BNSF in Colorado and six more will in the coming months.

"While we do have good equipment locally and a lot of it from the railroad, one thing we don't have is good training and a comfort level of exactly how to respond and that is something we are working on in the next year," said Moorhead Fire Department Assistant Chief Jeff Wallin.

Gov. Dayton announced Tuesday that Moorhead Fire Department will receive $100,000 in state funding so they can develop at Rail Safety Emergency Response Team. Prior to this new funding, Minnesota had only one emergency response team and it was located in the Twin Cities. The new team will work to improve response across Northwest Minnesota in the event of an oil train accident.

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