The following letter regarding SWLRT was submitted by CIDNA resident Douglas J. Peterson
FREIGHT RAIL MUST BE REROUTED FROM KENILWORTH CORRIDOR DURING SLRT TUNNEL CONSTRUCTION
The City of Minneapolis will hold a public hearing on municipal consent for the Southwest LRT on September 15. The City Council should not give its consent to the SWLRT project unless it has written, enforceable assurances for the protection of Minneapolis residents. Threat of an ethanol loaded freight train crash and fiery explosion is becoming a very real concern of residents living in the Blast Zone of a crash in the Kenilworth Corridor. The Twin Cities & Western Railroad, also known as “TCWR” operates freight trains several times a day through the corridor, that runs, from the southwest, under the West Lake Street Bridge, northeasterly between Cedar Lake and Lake Calhoun, north of Lake of the Isles, under Target Field (the Minnesota Twins Stadium), across the Mississippi River and into St. Paul. At least once a day trains consisting of from 80 to more than 100 cars filled with ethanol go through the corridor at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour. Currently, TCWR reports that trains go 10 miles per hour through the Kenilworth Corridor, however they travel much faster. TCWR should be required to provide from the black boxes in its locomotives all relevant data concerning, at a minimum, each train’s speed, it’s weight and the time it traveled through the Corridor. U.S. Senators Al Franken (Minn.) and Tammy Baldwin (Wisc.) expressed their concerns about the dangers of crude oil train explosions in the “Opinion Exchange” article entitled “Avoiding an Oil Train Explosion Shouldn’t be a Matter of Luck” (Sept. 1, 2015) . At a meeting that day with the two senators and state and local elected officials, police and fire officials and members of the public from Minnesota and Wisconsin, the participants agreed that freight trains loaded with ethanol and other hazardous chemicals were equally as dangerous as those loaded with crude oil. Because of the Met Council’s insistence on co-location of light rail passenger tracks within inches of tracks for freight trains carrying explosive ethanol, a real danger will exist for a derailment and explosion potentially killing 100s of people. There is, however, a more immediate concern of the residents living in the Blast Zone.
“”The SWLRT will be co-located with the TCWR in the Kenilworth Corridor. A tunnel will be constructed for the SWLRT trains running from near the West Lake Street Bridge to the south side of the channel between Cedar Lake and Lake Calhoun. The TCWR intends to operate its ethanol trains during construction. Excavation for one side of the tunnel wall will occur only a short distance – less than 10 feet – from the freight train tracks. In 2013 the Metropolitan Council Environmental Services (MCES) installed replacement sewer force mains between France Avenue and Dean Parkway. The force mains follow Sunset Boulevard to Depot Street and then crosses under active freight railroad tracks and the Kenilworth Trail to West 28th Street. The force mains installation at this location was completed by tunneling under, and placed perpendicular to, the railroad tracks and Kenilworth Trail so as not to disrupt active rail operations. The tunneling process required construction of two tunneling (jacking) pits on either side of the tracks. One pit was located at Depot Street and the other was located at the end of West 28th Street adjacent to Park Siding Park. The tunneling pit near Park Siding Park measured 16 by 34 feet and was approximately 27 feet deep. The excavation of these pits required the use of a crane and an excavator.
The SWLRT south tunnel construction plan says a pit would be dug to a depth of approximately 35 feet in this same location. The existing force main crossing consists of a 60-inch diameter tunneled steel “casing” pipe. The distance to the top of the casing pipe is approximately 17 feet and the distance to the bottom is 22 feet. The dual 18-inch force main pipes pass through this tunneled casing. The current placement of the force main interferes with the proposed location of the tunnel construction pit. The force main will need to be removed and relocated either above the proposed tunnel or below the tunnel to a depth greater than approximately 45 feet below ground level….. Risks associated with possible stray electrical current traveling in the ground from the LRT power lines to the sewer force mains have not been identified or addressed in the SDEIS.”
The Met Council has been astoundingly irresponsible in its failure to be accountable for damage it has done to residents within its jurisdiction resulting from its projects. Residents damaged by the construction of the force sewer main project referred to above were initially denied any remedy for their damages because the Council does not carry insurance for its projects and its contractors denied payments. To date, there have been no assurances by the Met Council that it will provide liability insurance for the millions of dollars of potential damages occurring either during or following construction if SWLRT or freight derails causing a train catastrophe. Currently, freight companies carry limited liability that only covers their rolling stock and train infrastructure.
The soil conditions in the area are poor for construction. The water table in the area is only about 20 feet below the surface; pilings for the West Lake Street Bridge reportedly were required to be and are 60 feet deep; construction for an apartment building at 3118 W. Lake Street, (the “Tryg’s property”) located about 1000 feet from the corridor, was halted in May 2015 because driving sheet piling caused damage to the foundation of a condo building on adjacent property; and apparently excavation for construction of a building next to the bike trail just northeast of Target Field has caused a major longitudinal crack in the bituminous bike trail. The railroad company and the Met Council must reroute freight train traffic out of the Kenilworth Corridor during construction to avoid the very real possibility of the tragic loss of life because of cost cutting.
Residents near the corridor are extremely concerned that lateral support for excavation of the tunnel will be totally inadequate to keep a fully loaded ethanol freight train consisting of 80 to 100 cars weighing 100 tons to 110 tons each from collapsing the side of the 45 foot deep excavation and crashing into the trench. The crash would most likely result in a fiery explosion wiping out a good part of the residential neighborhood. I live about 100 feet from the proposed tunnel excavation. My neighbors and I would be just as dead from an ethanol train crash and fiery explosion, as we would be from one caused by crude oil. Regardless of the number of deaths, there are no provisions planned for adequate amounts of liability insurance to cover personal and property damage. “The treatment of freight rail in the (Met Council’s) SDEIS indicates that the Met Council is not even aware of the danger to area residents, waterways, parks, trails, or SWLRT passengers. The many issues related to making freight rail permanent in the Kenilworth Corridor and co-locating freight and light rail need much greater study and consideration before this project advances.”
NOTE: Everything above contained within quotes is taken from SDEIS Comments to the Met Council. Everyone truly concerned about the safety of the SWLRT and the Met Council’s failure to really investigate and study the issues relating to construction and operation of the project should study this remarkable document. See:
Douglas J. Peterson
3315 Saint Paul Ave.
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55416