Train Derailment Causes Concern Over MN Infrastructure

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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  • Going down

    You’re joking, when are the people of MN going to stop being so cheap. We had this same discussion when the 35W bridge collapsed. It’s time to invest in our state by raising taxes!!

    With republican/libertarian guidance we are headed to the ranks of Mississippi

    • john saint paul

      they would just spend it on something else like they always do steal from peter to pay Paul for some other stupid project instead of what they are suppose to spend it on. so take your taxes else where. we are the second highest taxed state in this country. I don’t see anyone else having problems with bridges.

    • Max

      You are absolutely right! But, let’s not raise taxes on the rich…….(tongue firmly in cheek).

    • DARREN

      Hey, Write a check for me. I can’t afford any more taxes. Thank You for being a good Minnesotan.

      • Going down

        Sure, what’s your home address and phone number?

  • The Jig Is Up

    What can we expect when we keep sending our money overseas to countries whose name begins with the letter I?

  • Jon Lindquist

    I think people are being a little harsh on this example. This bridge failure wasn’t the result of flaws and poor maintenance, but from a freak rainstorm that caused the ground to become unstable. I don’t think anyone saw this happening and the likelihood is very slim it will happen again. if I read the original report correctly it wasn’t the bridge that failed first, but the portion just before it that washed out, causing the engines and cars to hit the bridge, thus damaging it.

  • Carl Popham

    Former Govrnor Tim Pawlenty’s legacy was to take money from the state and stuff his pockets and Carol Molnau, who sat around and got paid lots of money for doing nothing while head of Minndot. They also took long vacations under the guise of buisiness trips with their missappropriated money, While Minnesota literally fell apart.Pawlenty and Molnau then pulled a Katrina and took days to get back to Minnesota, even though a transcontinental flight takes a few hours at most.

  • No tax money for infrastructure!

    Repair our infrastructure? I think not. We have to build Zygi a new stadium first. Then after 30 years or so, maybe we can do something about those bridges. Oh wait, no we can’t, it’ll be time to build Zygi another new stadium.

  • Jake

    I thought that the tracks were owned by CORPORATIONS, not the state. Please tell me if I’m wrong. And I also thought that the Northstar line was ‘renting’ these freight tracks from PRIVATELY HELD COMPANIES. So some of you want to ‘nationalize’ our railroad infrastructure, and give gov’t complete control? SCARY to the BONE.

  • dave

    Jake is correct: railroad tracks are private, not public, infrastructure. The state of MN could spend all it wants on infrastructure and it would not change things here.

  • wow

    Wow when will the class warfare thing stop. it is very old
    why should someone that works hard makes good money
    and supports the fsmily JUST GET TAXed more for working hard and spending wisley. to give money to lazy people that really dont want to work they just think the government OWES them a free living wage. get off your but get a job like the rest of us. bye the way the zygy stadium will bring in more than it cost .
    also i have voted DFL my whole life. but the current DFL state and federal lost me i will note vote DFL for a very long time

    • Going down

      class warfare isn’t raising taxes on the rich, that just the sound byte used in astroturfing

      true class warfare will begin when the poor and middle class truly get tired and form mobs to go and raid/pillage homes of the rich. this has happened before in this country and will happen again unless balance is restored

      • Leroy

        So when we spend all the extra money we made from taxing the rich what do we tax them some more? We need close all loop holes rich and poor and go to a flat tax. Then when the money runs out we will all have our taxes raised or find a way to live with in our means. Taxing the rich more is only a short term fix for a long term problem of over spending.

        • Going down

          Even the Founding Father of this country knew a flat tax on income was wrong and wouldn’t work.

          We haven’t been spending enough for over a decade, you need only drive the roads and look at the holes in bridges where you see rust bleeding through. It’s a joke.

  • Steve

    As a former railroad employee I have to say that this is one industry that could really use a little oversight. The infrastructure of nearly all railroads including short line local ones is in horrible disrepair. Just imagine what would have happened if the cars that had derailed in Fridley had been carrying anhydrous ammonia or sulfuric acid, two very common commodities ship by rail.
    Railroads have developed the philosophy of “don’t fix it till it’s broke”. Unfortunately that usually leads to disaster. In this case they were very lucky!

  • country bumpkin

    My question: Does BNSF have a policy or practice or procedure to follow when they have a major weather event (reportedly 5 inches of rain overnight?) Do they have a device to indicate that there could be a wash out say like a rock detector or something like that? Do they have high water detectors on bridges to slow trains so that the sight can be inspected?

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