Railway Safety Advocates Raise Concerns Over Proposed Legislation

March 16, 2017 10:48 PM

Railway safety advocates are worried private companies could avoid adequate liability under identical bills state lawmakers in both the House and Senate are trying to pass.

The bills give the Metropolitan Council and counties the ability to contract with railroads "for the joint or shared use of the council's or county's right-of-way," according to House File 2229.


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The shared use would help in the future construction of metro light rail systems.

But the bill also allows municipal liability limits be imposed on freight rail operations, meaning private companies could pay only up to $3 million at the most in liability in the event of a disaster.

And that concerns Claire Ruebeck, who lives near one of the railroad corridors in Minneapolis.

"We need to make sure that property owners and citizens have the protections in case something does happen," Ruebeck said, noting the impact to the environment and the cost of cleaning up after a disaster.

"These corridors are going through areas where we have parkland and lakes."

Ruebeck has gotten used to the trains as traffic has increased in recent years. She now hears several trains a day, and said the corridor is about to get a lot busier with the addition of the Southwest Light Rail Train.

"It used to be that you could set your watch and there'd be one train in the morning and one train in the afternoon," Ruebeck said.

"Now we're seeing many more trains coming that are carrying ethanol."


Kirsten Swanson

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