Hennepin County formally voted Tuesday to spend $1.8 million to buy up land in Crystal so freight haulers can’t use it as a pivot point for trains moving oil from North Dakota’s fields.
The board claimed the property under the aegis of public safety, which “would be negatively impacted by a proposed rerouting of freight trains through Crystal, Robbinsdale, Golden Valley and Minneapolis,” according to a county statement.
BNSF and Canadian Pacific tracks now cross each other in Crystal, but do not connect. The proposed connector would allow the trains to slow to 25 miles per hour and make a turn. That move alone could simultaneously block five intersections in Crystal and Robbinsdale.
The mile-long trains would then continue to Theodore Wirth Park and across Nicollet Island on the Mississippi River, at the edge of downtown Minneapolis. Golden Valley, New Hope and Plymouth also would see more traffic and heavier trains if the connector were built.
The piece of land purchased by the county is at 5170 W. Broadway. North Suburban Towing Inc. and Thomas Auto Body & Collision currently rent and operate businesses on the site and are expected to continue to do so.
The county’s goal in acquiring the land is to prevent the railroads from using their substantial powers to take property. The county also is working at the Legislature to try to block the railroads’ action, but there’s an expectation that the fight is far from over.