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CPR/DM&E merger will increase coal and haz-mat rail traffic in Rochester, coalition claims


On behalf of the Rochester Coalition, the Mayo Clinic yesterday filed rebuttal papers with the Surface Transportation Board (STB) claiming the coalition has "new evidence" showing Rochester, Minn., will become a "high-speed rail corridor for coal and hazardous-material shipments" soon after Canadian Pacific Railway acquires the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad Corp. (DM&E).

The evidence contradicts CPR's and the DM&E's justifications as to why the STB should deny Rochester's and the clinic's request for mitigation as a condition for the CPR/DM&E merger, according to the coalition of Rochester business and government leaders.

"Evidence in the public record now suggests that a substantial number of carloads of ethanol will move through Rochester on their way to Chicago after the Canadian Pacific gains control of the DM&E," coalition officials said in a prepared statement.

CPR previously stated that all anticipated ethanol traffic will either move west (to a BNSF Railway Co. interchange) or via the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern Railroad Corp.'s lines to Chicago, the officials said. But according to coalition data sealed under a protective order, once CPR officials are "confident that track conditions are adequate to ensure safe movement" of ethanol and other hazardous materials over the DM&E track from Owatonna, Iowa, through Rochester, the Class I will use that routing for increased ethanol traffic, coalition officials claim.

The STB — which is reviewing CPR's acquisition of the DM&E — has accepted CPR's claims that there would be no significant increase of haz-mat traffic through the city as a result of the acquisition and determined safety mitigation improvements aren't necessary, the officials said. The STB also agreed to CPR's request not to require specific mitigation protections for Rochester until or unless the Class I decides to proceed with the DM&E's long-proposed Powder River Basin expansion project, according to the coalition.

The Mayo Clinic has requested that the STB require the following mitigations: consultation on how best to minimize impacts to the clinic, including the limitation of haz-mat shipments through the city; negotiation of voluntary contractual limitations on the total number of through-traffic trains with the clinic and Rochester; regulation of speed limits on local haz-mat traffic; requirement of multiple grade separations for specific in-city crossings; increased inspection and installation of wayside detectors to the West and East of Rochester; pre-notification of haz-mat cargo to city emergency service officials; and the development of whistle-free crossings.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/21/2008