Community gains ally in railway speed fight
Congress may intervene if trains speeds are increased to 60 mph through Casselton, Sen. Byron Dorgan warned Friday in a letter to BNSF Railway. Dorgan said the railway's decision to increase speeds through the city ignores legitimate concerns and...
Congress may intervene if trains speeds are increased to 60 mph through Casselton, Sen. Byron Dorgan warned Friday in a letter to BNSF Railway.
Dorgan said the railway's decision to increase speeds through the city ignores legitimate concerns and objections from citizens.
"It may well be that because of a Supreme Court decision you can increase your speed and make it stick. But that doesn't make it right," Dorgan wrote to company CEO Matthew Rose. "I believe a railroad has a responsibility to consider local interests."
City Attorney Brad Burgum said there appears to be little Casselton officials can do to legally stop the proposed change. A U.S. Supreme Court opinion from the 1990s ruled federal laws trump city or state regulations, giving the railroad the final say, he said.
Casselton Mayor Ed McConnell said the 20 mph increase would be reckless and potentially catastrophic to the town. City officials say the speed increase poses potential safety risks, and stronger vibrations from trains could further damage historic downtown buildings.
McConnell wrote a letter last week to the railroad, North Dakota's congressional delegation and top state officials regarding BNSF's plan, which could start next month, said BNSF Railway spokesman Gus Melonas.
The railway will work with city leaders as it adjusts maximum train speeds to improve efficiency, Melonas said.
Mark Bruce, general manager for BNSF, wrote a letter Dec. 12 to McConnell to give notice of the change for a one-mile stretch through the city. The tracks in Casselton have five public crossings.
Thirty trains operate daily through Casselton on the track, which is designed to handle speeds of 60 mph, Melonas said.