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Bruce D. Brovold, Fargo, Published December 28 2013

Letter: F-M rail situation untenable

Regarding a column in the Dec. 18 Forum, “Evidence clear: North Dakota needs more pipelines for oil,” by Rep. Mark S. Owens: I agree.

Owens states: “Trains transport goods across the country, moving very large volumes daily with little problems. However, every time they are loaded, unloaded or become involved in an accident, there is a chance of major injury to people, property and our environment.”

Not only am I worried about the accidents, I am concerned about the huge volumes of trains running through the Fargo-Moorhead metro every day, and ever increasing. The latest headline was that 135 trains roll through F-M a day. The big problem is there are only six underpasses, under the Main Avenue tracks, in the two downtowns, from 25th Street in Fargo to 20th Street in Moorhead.

There are only five underpasses on the north tracks throughout both downtowns in the same area. Two of these underpasses usually flood, or are diked during moderate spring floods, and two are one-ways.

On average, these trains block the crossings for approximately 10 minutes. Sometimes they stop for up to an hour for accidents and reasons unknown.

Let’s say if each train, all 135 of them, blocked railroad crossings for just seven minutes, the crossings in downtown would be blocked for 945 minutes a day, equaling 15.75 hours.

This is causing widespread traffic backups and, as Owens mentioned, the potential for serious accidents. A fire in south Moorhead when both tracks were blocked during rush hour would be devastating.

The trains also detour people away from shopping the downtown business districts. This has to stop before Fargo-Moorhead crossings are blocked permanently all day long. Something has to be done to clear these trains out of the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the Midwest, with a population approaching a quarter-million residents.

The tracks need to be rerouted around Fargo- Moorhead once and for all. The businesses of both Fargo and Moorhead downtowns are struggling today. Placing two permanent barriers on both ends of the business districts, when the train numbers succeed the blocking of crossings for 24 hours a day, will surely kill both downtown shopping areas.

It will also detour traffic to the south, placing more traffic on smaller arteries, thus causing major traffic backups during commutes. Main Avenue and 25th Street will be the new freeways in the Fargo downtown area because underpasses will be bottled up for hours.

Fargo-Moorhead officials, it is time to start talks with BNSF Railway to outline blueprints for the bypassing of these railroad tracks out of our communities before it’s too late.