Minnesota hires rail inspectors along oil route
- Associated Press
- September 4, 2014 - 4:15 PM
ST. CLOUD, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Transportation is hiring more rail inspectors in accordance with a new state law passed in response to the increasing amount of oil trains leaving North Dakota's oil fields and traveling through Minnesota.
Dave Christianson, spokesman for the department, said two new track inspectors and one new hazardous materials inspector have already been hired. The inspectors are a critical part of Minnesota's response to the amount of freight trains carrying oil through the state, he said.
"We are a freeway for crude oil coming out of the Bakken (formation in North Dakota)," Christianson said. "We've made some definite steps toward responding to that."
State officials estimate that eight to 13 oil trains pass through Minnesota every day. The state's main route for oil transportation is along the BNSF Railway, which runs through east St. Cloud, Sartell, Sauk Rapids and other communities north of the Twin Cities, the St. Cloud Times reported (http://on.sctimes.com/1vS1vlp ).
Christianson said the track inspectors will monitor railway alignment and conditions, as well as other structures along the tracks, such as bridges and crossings. The hazardous material inspector, a new position within the state Department of Transportation, will inspect railways to make sure they abide by procedures for hazardous materials, including signage, transporting, loading and unloading.
The Federal Railroad Administration, which oversees operating practices, signals, track, mechanical and hazardous materials along railroads, may also increase its presence in Minnesota to further enforce regulation.
Justin Chalich is president of Northern Lines Railway, a shortline railroad from Rockville to east St. Cloud that employs his own inspectors. He said he welcomes more visits from state inspectors who used to visit only a few times a year.
"I think we'll see them more often now," Chalich said. "It's a good thing. It's always nice to have a second set of eyes on the track to help you out."
© 2014 Star Tribune