Minnesota rail workers pushing for train safety legislation

Minnesota's rail workers union was in St. Paul today urging lawmakers at the Capitol to pass train safety legislation this session.

The union insists the rails are safe right now, but with millions of gallons of crude oil coming thru Minnesota every day... members want to make sure it stays that way.

The union came armed with results from a recent telephone survey that they say shows that rail safety is a big worry for Minnesota residents.

On the top of the union's legislative demands is to make sure there is always a crew of two on board freight trains in Minnesota.

"We've got issues in this industry," Phillip Qualy, the union's spokesman said.

The union representing Minnesota's rail workers insists the state's massive network of track and crossings are indeed safe. But it wants legislation and increased funding to make sure it stays that way.

"This is a statewide issue," Rep. Frank Hornstein said.

The veteran DFL'er introduced legislation in the house mandating that all freight trains are operated by a crew of two, which is current standard operating procedure in the industry.

"We really need to leave no stone unturned when it comes to protecting the public and rail safety," Hornstein said.

A recent public opinion survey, commissioned by the union, found broad support for the idea of two-member crews. The results come as fear of catastrophic derailment seems to grow across the country with increased shipments of crude oil.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation estimates that five to seven trains of crude (totaling 3.3 million gallons of oil) rumbles across Minnesota every day.

"People are concerned about speeds," Krista Craven, Como neighborhood resident, said.

It's no surprise that rail safety is a top concern in the Como Lake area where the state has deemed one crossing one of the most dangerous around.

"I notice it," Craven said. "I feel like you can either choose to live in fear, or you can live day in and day out and hope for the best."

Gov. Dayton has proposed spending 330 million dollars over the next ten years to specifically improve rail crossings around the state. He wants the railroads to chip in to help pay.

Those companies have opposed his idea, but the union says it's the right way to go.

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