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Klobuchar, Franken, McCollum, Ellison Announce More Than $1 Million Awarded to Twin Cities & Western Railroad Company to Improve Rail Safety

August 12, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, along with Representatives Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison, today announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded a grant of $1,100,550 to Twin Cities & Western Railroad Company to improve rail safety. The funds will be used to implement and test Positive Train Control systems.

“Minnesota depends on freight rail to keep businesses and our state’s economy moving forward. However, with increased freight train traffic on our rail lines, ensuring the safety of communities along rail routes remains a top priority,” Klobuchar said. “That’s why I’ve been a leading advocate for strengthening rail infrastructure, including establishing Positive Train Control systems. This investment in the Twin Cities & Western Railroad Company will help reduce the number of train incidents caused by human error and greatly enhance safety on our tracks.”

“Railroads are critically important to Minnesota’s economy, as businesses and farmers rely on rail service to move their products to market. Keeping our railroads safe and operational is a critical part of our state's transportation network,” Franken said. “I’ve heard from many community leaders who share my concern for the safety of railcars that travel through our Minnesota communities, and I’m glad that the Transportation Department is listening to Minnesotans and taking measures to ensure we keep our railways safe.”

“I am pleased that the Department of Transportation is working to make rail traffic safer in the Twin Cities and throughout Minnesota,” McCollum said. “As the shipment of Bakken crude oil continues to depend on freight rail traveling through Minnesota, we must ensure the highest level of safety for our communities. Implementing and testing Positive Train Control is an important step in making freight rail safer and preventing future accidents.”

“A safe and efficient multi-modal freight network is critical to our region’s economic success,” Ellison said. “The Department of Transportation’s grant will help modernize our freight rail network and keep our communities safe.”

The DOT Railroad Safety Technology Grant Program provides grants to passenger and freight rail carriers, railroad suppliers, and state and local governments for projects that have a public benefit of improved railroad safety and efficiency.

Klobuchar is a leader in the Senate on the effort to improve rail safety and service across the country. Her provision to help states address blocked rail crossings passed the Senate last year as part of the bipartisan long-term transportation legislation. Her provision would help improve safety at rail-highway crossings by ensuring that the U.S. Secretary of Transportation provides tools and best practices to states to mitigate the safety risks posed by blocked rail crossings. In 2015, Klobuchar also sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Transportation to work collaboratively with rail carriers and first responders to establish an information-sharing system that will help communities plan for and respond to rail incidents. As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees federal rail issues, Klobuchar successfully pushed for a hearing where she pressed federal rail officials on the need to move forward on critical safety measures to strengthen rail infrastructure and protect communities along rail routes. She has also pushed the Senate Appropriations Committee for increased funding for additional rail inspectors and for a stronger track inspection process to prevent derailments.

For years, Franken has pressed railroad and federal safety officials to do everything they can to keep Minnesotans safe. As a member of the Senate Energy Committee, Franken urged the Federal Railroad Administration in 2015 to adopt measures to make Bakken crude oil safer to transport before it is carried from North Dakota across our Minnesota railroad systems. He remains committed to making sure trains traveling through places like Moorhead, St. Cloud, and the Twin Cities metro area have the strongest tank cars with the safest oil. He continues to advocate for puncture resistant tanks and stresses the importance of treating crude oil and ethanol as different materials with their own safety standards. He also supports a permanent extension of the short line tax credit for railroads, which helps small and local railroads invest in upgrading and expanding their infrastructure, and improving rail service. 

In Congress, McCollum has been a strong advocate for rail safety and investments in America’s transportation infrastructure. McCollum is the co-sponsor of multiple bills to improve rail safety, such as the Positive Train Control Enforcement and Implementation Act (H.R.3561). As Minnesota’s member of the House Appropriations Committee, McCollum worked with both parties to include critical investments in rail safety in the Fiscal Year 2017 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Funding Bill, including funding for highway rail-grade crossing safety and improved signaling technology.

Representative Ellison has been a strong advocate for ensuring that we protect communities impacted by freight rail traffic. Mr. Ellison has introduced legislation (H.R. 1290) that would provide for a study by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies on the impact of diverting certain freight rail traffic to avoid urban areas. Congressman Ellison has also hosted a series of rail safety forums to highlight community concerns and bring attention to the issues created by high volumes of freight rail traffic.