Forum editorial: Enderlin takes on railroad
Enderlin, N.D., a city of about 900, is taking on the Canadian Pacific Railway, one of North America's biggest railroads. Good for the people of Enderlin.
Enderlin, N.D., a city of about 900, is taking on the Canadian Pacific Railway, one of North America’s biggest railroads. Good for the people of Enderlin.
The issue is the railroad’s routine blocking of track crossings with grain and oil trains for up to four hours. The trains, which are longer than in the past and more frequent (28 a day) can cause traffic delays that are more than inconvenient. They are a threat to public safety and normal commerce. Services affected include ambulance runs and fire calls. The city has every reason to object.
The long delays are caused when train crews change. In the past, it was not a major problem (certainly a minor one) because there were not as many trains and they were not so long that they blocked all three of the city’s street/rail intersections at one time. City officials responded to rising resident complaints by banning train breaks longer than 10 minutes, an action the railroad claims is a violation of interstate commerce laws. The big railroad is suing the small city in federal court.
The situation is difficult for Enderlin, which not only is a CP hub for 140 CP employees but also is steeped in rich railroad history. It was founded in 1881 by railroad executives. The people of Enderlin embrace the history of railroads, and understand the importance of CP’s presence in town.
But what seems to be happening is that CP is abusing Enderlin’s generally good feelings about the railroad. The blockages have gotten worse. By refusing to shorten the time that trains shut down traffic in the city, CP is in effect thumbing its corporate nose at legitimate concerns about public safety and retail and residential disruptions.
The federal case has not been scheduled. There is time for CP and Enderlin to work out a compromise that might not please everyone in town, and might mandate that CP find a way to shorten times the city is locked up by stalled trains.
Thus far, CP has not been responsive, and rather has ridiculed Enderlin’s ordinance because it calls for daily fines and even jail time for conductors who idle trains. That’s the wrong reaction from CP. City officials are serious, and the provisions in the ordinance, while seemingly extreme, reflect that seriousness.
CP is at fault in all this even if it is determined that interstate commerce laws are on CP’s side. The railroad should act in the spirit of the history of railroading in Enderlin, and start behaving like a good neighbor.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.