By Jonathan Avise
Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle looks on as Dave Christianson, right, state rail plan project manager, comments during a joint hearing of House and Senate committees on the state's problems with freight rail congestion. Photo by Paul Battaglia
Minnesota’s clogged railways are negatively impacting farmers, miners, heavy industry and more, a joint House and Senate hearing heard Tuesday.
Lawmakers and industry representatives lay the blame for the slowdown on a jump in the number of oil trains crisscrossing the state to and from North Dakota’s booming Bakken oil fields.
But railroad industry representatives told a joint hearing of the House Transportation Finance, Commerce and Consumer Protection committees, and Senate Transportation and Public Safety Division, and Commerce and Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development committees that, even without the increase in oil train traffic, the state’s rail capacity has been stretched in recent years.
"We have an unprecedented situation," said Rep. Frank Hornstein (DFL-Mpls), chair of the House Transportation Finance Committee. Agriculture, mining and passenger rail are all being impacted by the slowdowns, he said. "We need to know why that's happening."