Searching for safety on Hanson Boulevard

An arial view of the Hanson Boulevard/BNSF rail crossing.
An arial view of the Hanson Boulevard/BNSF rail crossing.

For anyone who’s familiar with traveling on Hanson Boulevard in Coon Rapids – you know that delays due to trains are a common occurrence. These delays have grown more frequent over the years leading to this segment being designed the ‘busiest rail line in the state.

An average of 81 trains travel on this line, owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) — many as long as 125 cars in length. To make matters more congested, this region is also a staging area, where trains will wait for clearance to enter the nearby Northtown Rail Yard. The staged trains can block traffic for extended periods of time and also delay emergency response vehicles.

Senate Capital Investment Committee members get a bird's eye view of the location of a proposed rail grade separation project in Coon Rapids, Minn.
Senate Capital Investment Committee members get a bird’s eye view of the location of a proposed rail grade separation project in Coon Rapids, Minn.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has identified this rail crossing as a top priority for a future grade separation. Last December, city and county leaders showed members of the Senate Capital Investment Committee a birds-eye view of the area in order to see just how far backed up trains can get. The project is requesting $23 million in bonding funds to build an overpass at the area which would allow traffic to smoothly bypass the trains. This plan would considerably ease congestion, allow for emergency vehicles to pass quickly and without delay, and would generally improve safety at the crossing for all pedestrian and car traffic.

I was very pleased to see this project included in Governor Dayton’s bonding proposal which was unveiled in January. He included $69 million in bonding funds which target three high-priority rail grade separation projects across the state including Hanson Boulevard. As chief author of this bill, and someone who is personally affected by this safety and traffic issue – I will continue to work hard to ensure this bill is delivered on behalf of the people of Coon Rapids and the hardworking emergency responders who help keep all of us safe.