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Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • City, BNSF to meet regarding speed limits

  • Just four days prior to a planned decision to double the speed limit of trains traveling through city limits set to take effect, Devils Lake city officials will be meeting with representatives from Burlington Sante Fe (BNSF) Railway Monday.
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  • Just four days prior to a planned decision to double the speed limit of trains traveling through city limits set to take effect, Devils Lake city officials will be meeting with representatives from Burlington Sante Fe (BNSF) Railway Monday. Set for noon at city hall, the meeting is open to the public for attendance. No input from visitors, however will be taken.
    The discussion will be an opportunity for the city to voice their concerns with the raising of trains' speeds from 30 to 60 mph when traveling through a 1.4 mile stretch of Devils Lake, M­­­ayor Dick Johnson told the Journal Thursday.
    "It is an opportunity to tell BNSF officials that we have major safety concerns with the proposed increase of speed limit in Devils Lake," Johnson, who stated he would like to see the rate of 30 mph to remain within city limits, commented.
    City officials found out about the company's decision in a correspondence with Devils Lake Police Chief Keith Schroeder dated July 7. Written by Thomas Albanese, general manager of the BNSF Twin Cities division, the letter states
    "That the change will affect one grade crossing at 12th Avenue South, but will in no way compromise safety."
    According to Steve Forsberg, general director of external relations at BNSF, the reason for the decision is due to the track's upgrade from a Class 3 track to Class 4. Based on limits set by the Federal Railroad Administration, trains on a Class 4 track can go no faster than 60 mph.
    "The transition from Class 3 to Class 4 is based on improvements made to the track in the state and the Devils Lake area," Forsberg stated.
    In a phone interview with the journal, the external relations director explained that cars carrying oils and other sensitive materials will still adhere to specific speed limits. He also continued to note that trains won't necessarily travel at maximum speeds.  
    "Communities east and west of Devils Lake are currently at that speed limit," Forsberg stated.
    Devils Lake community officials, however, greatly disagree with the potential change in speeds. One of the reasons is the location of BNSF railway in the community, the mayor pointed out.
    "The track goes right through the heart of Devils Lake," Johnson stated. "From residential lots to an elementary and a church, the BNSF track runs in busy areas of this community including downtown. The high-traffic locations that the change would impact is a major concern."
    In a written protest to BNSF officials, Schroeder noted that while there is little question that the track is capable of handling trains at that speed,  "the community safety concerns are many."
    Both BNSF and Devils Lake officials are hopeful that the meeting can be a positive one.
    Page 2 of 2 - "This is a chance for our company to address and concerns they may have," Forsberg commented.
    Johnson added, "I am glad that their officials are meeting with us in our community. Hopefully, this an opportunity for them to see how this change would affect the individuals and families of Devils Lake. It all comes down to the safety of our residents."

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