Freight rail service needs legislative support

To the editor:

Freight rail service is a critical part of rural Minnesota’s economy. Unfortunately, right now some lawmakers are engaged in an issue that could significantly harm farmers, manufacturers, and workers, particularly in western and southwestern Minnesota, by limiting access to freight rail.

A proposal to build a light-rail transit commuter line in the Twin Cities would use existing railroad right-of-way that is part of the Twin Cities and Western Railroad’s system. Putting LRT trains right next to an active freight rail track could cause significant problems if there’s an accident involving passengers. The new LRT line would be placed there by the state, so since the state is creating the situation they should be liable if something goes wrong. Otherwise the freight rail line could easily be sued out of existence.

The good news is that Rep. Paul Torkelson, chair of the House Transportation Committee, recognizes that we need to maintain access to freight rail in rural Minnesota and he’s authored legislation to make sure that regardless of what happens with LRT, we will still have a freight railroad that can move ethanol, grain, milk, fertilizer and other products to and from western and southwestern Minnesota. His proposal would protect the TC&W by capping its exposure if an accident involving both LRT and freight rail did occur in the shared corridor.

The Minnesota Grain and Feed Association represents many of the rural elevators and cooperative suppliers that depend on Twin Cities and Western Railroad. We appreciate Rep. Torkelson’s efforts to protect our access to rail service – and we also appreciate the hard work he is doing to improve roads and bridges around the state.

Lawmakers like to know if they are “on track.” If you agree with what Rep. Torkelson is doing to improve and protect transportation in rural Minnesota, let him know.

Bob Zelenka, executive director

of the Minnesota Grain

and Feed Association