Sen. Eken: Moorhead Railroad Grade Separation

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Last year, Moorhead averaged 85 trains passing through the city each day, about 5-7 of those trains each day were carrying oil from North Dakota. By 2040, the number of trains passing through the city is projected to grow to 150 per day. Each day train crossings block city streets between 4 and 8 hours per day.

This fact of life affects everything in our city – from safety concerns for pedestrians and vehicles, to barriers for emergency services and first responders to economic viability concerns. It’s difficult to attract new businesses to downtown when daily life includes waiting at rail crossings for increasingly long periods of time.

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The Senate Bonding Tour bus waits for rail traffic in Moorhead, Minn.

For more than a decade, the city of Moorhead has been working on improving the safety at one of its railroad crossings across a four-lane highway near the downtown part of the city. This ‘spaghetti junction’ of several railroad crossings can halt traffic for long periods of time – and in fact stopped the Senate bus for around 10-15 minutes as it passed through the city. More than $6 million has already been invested. The city is requesting $42.262 million to complete an underpass project at the intersection which would dramatically increase safety, and decrease wait times all together, allowing passenger vehicles and trains to co-exist more happily.

The city is also requesting $13.548 million in bonding to complete preliminary engineering and final design for railroad grade separations at another four-lane highway crossing in the city.

Railroad separations like those proposed in Moorhead are difficult to understand without experiencing the traffic delays in person. They are also costly – but I encourage members to consider the incredible amount of safety they bring to the community. Not only do these rail grade separations increase daily safety by reducing vehicle exposures to trains, it also dramatically decreases emergency vehicle delay times – which can literally save lives. Benefits also include reduced energy consumption because there will be fewer lines of idling vehicles. Finally, construction of these grade separations will greatly help Moorhead attract new businesses and increase our economic activity.

State Senator Kent Eken