After reviewing a technical analysis prepared by a South Dakota engineering firm, Twin Cities & Western Railroad (TC&W) today announced that it has rejected a proposal by Transystems, an independent consultant, to relocate freight rail service from the Kenilworth Corridor to a St. Louis Park route. The engineering analysis described the Transystems proposal as “neither efficient, safe nor cost effective when compared to TC&W’s current route.”
TC&W President Mark Wegner said he received the report yesterday from Civil Design, Inc. (CDI). It highlighted a number of specific problems with the St. Louis Park route recommended by independent consultant Transystems on January 30. “The operating conditions proposed by the Transystems alignment would be detrimental in every respect to current and future operating conditions for the TC&W,” the report concluded.
The Transystems plan would reroute freight rail traffic through St. Louis Park on the MN&S rail line owned by Canadian Pacific. It is only slightly different from the plan proposed in the October 2012 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) published by Hennepin County.
Among the problems cited in the CDI report to TC&W:
--The proposed reroute does not meet mainline standards for Class I railroad construction as required by the length and weight of TC&W trains moving freight to and from Class I carriers;
--The installation of a Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) signal controlled by other railroads would force TC&W trains to wait on the track for access rights from the controlling railroads, causing costly and inefficient delays;
--The reroute includes three reverse curves, also known as S-curves, and multiple undulating grades in less than one mile, unsafe elements that should be “avoided at all costs,” according to the American Railroad Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA), which reports that such elements can “greatly increase the likelihood of the train buckling and thus derailment.”
--The route requires tracks to be built on bridges, creating higher maintenance and repair costs, but there is no agreement as to who would be responsible for those costs.
Wegner said it’s hard for him to understand why Transystems recommended a St. Louis Park reroute that is only slightly different from the DEIS plan that TC&W rejected. He said the railroad wasn’t asked for input in either case until the designs already had been made public.
In contrast, Wegner pointed to the Brunswick Central reroute option, which TC&W found acceptable from a safety perspective. That route, which skirts the St. Louis Park High School’s football field, was developed by the Metropolitan Council with the collaboration of Canadian Pacific and TC&W to meet Class I mainline safety and engineering standards.
“You don’t build passenger aircraft to meet minimum safety standards; you don’t build road bridges to meet minimum weight standards .These designs have numerous safety redundancies built in,” Wegner said. “When state and federal authorities are looking at freight rail options here in the Twin Cities, it’s hard to imagine them taking the position that a less safe route is preferable to our current route.”
The failure to meet Class I safety and engineering standards makes it impossible for TC&W to accept the Transystem plan, Wegner concluded, because “it does not allow us to protect our current and future shippers in Minnesota and South Dakota.”
NOTE: The CDI report is available on the Twin Cities & Western website.