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Train Derailment Causes Concern Over MN Infrastructure

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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FRIDLEY, Minn. (WCCO) – From the backyard of his Fridley home, on the banks of Locke Lake, Ken Schultz has a front row seat to a spectacle that features heavy cranes, crawlers and fast working track crews.

The 17 car derailment of a west bound Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) freight train dumped tons of corn and hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel Saturday into the nearby Rice Creek.

“The power of everything was just amazing, looking at the rails all bent up and just looking at the state of the cars is something else,” Schultz said.

According to a BNSF spokesperson the derailment was the result of heavy rainfall that undermined the main line tracks. Nearly five inches of rain fell into the Rice Creek watershed in a matter of hours. The creek couldn’t discharge the rainfall underneath the bridge quickly enough, and as rising waters in the holding pond upstream of the bridge overflowed, the torrential floodwater spilled over the banks.

When that happened, the fast moving floodwaters chewed away the rock ballast that formed the road bed of the westbound track. When the two locomotives, which were each pulling 110 cars fully-loaded with shelled corn, crossed the bridge, they hit the undermined tracks resulting in the derailment.

“You can see the concrete is crumbling – they should be maintained better I think,” said Clark Brener as he viewed a nearly 90-year-old bridge in Minneapolis.

Even though Saturday’s derailment wasn’t the result of a faulty bridge, Bremer is concerned. While he admits he’s no expert, he wants others to see our aging infrastructure.

“Just seeing the tracks the Northstar runs on go in the drink this weekend is a little disturbing. I mean, nobody saw that coming. Well, maybe now if we’re looking at this bridge we can’t say that we didn’t see it coming,” he said.

Because BNSF’s mainline tracks are vital to commerce and commuter safety, the railroad says it will perform routine track inspections three or four times each week.

Perhaps those inspections might give those who live nearby the bridges some added reassurance when they walk the trail underneath the bridge.

“I used to have no problem whatsoever. Now I make sure that when I go under there, I’ll be a little more careful in realizing when trains are coming by,” Schultz said.

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