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DM&E coal trains could delay Chicago-area BNSF and commuter trains - BNSF STB filing


BNSF Railway Co. executives aren’t keen on the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad Corp. (DM&E) becoming a third rail competitor in the Powder River Basin (PRB). In a Dec. 11 Surface Transportation Board (STB) filing, they state specific objections to the regional’s proposed project.

If the board authorizes the DM&E to haul PRB coal along the former I&M Rail Link’s (IMRL) line, BNSF trains in Savanna, Ill., would experience “substantial delays,” according to the filing. In addition, Chicago commuter trains operating on the same lines could be delayed by mile-long DM&E coal trains, the filing states.

“BNSF’s transcontinental mainline between the Pacific Northwest and Chicago crosses the former IMRL line at grade at Savanna en route to the Chicago Gateway, where delays could be substantially increased by the addition of PRB coal trains regardless of what route into Chicago is used by DM&E,” according to the filing.

The STB should study whether PRB coal moves over the former IMRL lines would have other impacts not addressed in a previous supplemental environmental appendix, such as air quality and noise, BNSF says.

The DM&E plans to build a 262.3-mile line through western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming, and upgrade 600 track miles in South Dakota and Minnesota to access the PRB.