Minnesota governor lays out plan to improve railway safety

After numerous train derailments across the country, lawmakers are proposing changes to try and prevent such disaster here in Minnesota. The North Dakota oil boom has millions of gallons of crude oil traveling through Minnesota, and many are concerned that a train derailment could happen here.

Five trains hauling crude oil have derailed since February, and some are worried it may only be a matter of time before it happens here. Recent reports show many Minnesota communities are not prepared to handle an oil train derailment.

"Over the last year, I have traveled across Minnesota and seen firsthand the very serious and costly challenges that increased rail traffic have thrust upon our communities," Gov. Dayton said. "Minnesotans did not cause these disruptions; they are not responsible for the endless barrage of dangerous cargo being shipped through their communities every day. The railroads responsible for these problems have a responsibility to pay for these essential safety improvements."

Earlier this week, state legislators renewed their call for additional taxes and fees on major freight railroads to pay for those improvements -- a proposal that could raise about $100 million annually for railroad crossing upgrades.

Just to give you an idea how much more oil is moving by rail, in 2008 there were 9,500 cars carrying crude in the whole country. By 2013, that number had skyrocketed to 415,000.

5 railway safety changes proposed by governor

Major grade separations: Funding for 4 major grade separations in Coon Rapids, Moorhead, Prairie Island, and Willmar.

71 statewide infrastructure improvements: Additional improvements at railway crossing, based on their levels of danger and congestion.

Emergency training: Construction of a new training facility at Camp Ripley, which would simulate response scenarios related to the transportation and storage of hazardous materials, including North Dakota crude oil.

Quiet zones: Funding to help establish new quiet zones in communities located along busy rail lines.

Rail Office Director: The governor wants to hire a new Rail Office Director to take on a larger role in addressing freight rail service and safety issues in the state.

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