MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Railroad documents released by the state Department of Public Safety show about 50 trains carrying crude oil from North Dakota are passing through Minnesota each week, most traveling along the Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railway line between Moorhead and the Twin Cities.
The Star Tribune first reported on the documents, which are labeled "confidential," on Saturday (http://strib.mn/1ppdZsD ). The Associated Press also has obtained them.
They show that nearly all of the oil trains pass through populated areas. While there is some fluctuation in traffic from week to week, Ramsey County averages about 45 oil trains a week, as does Clay County, which borders Fargo, North Dakota, the data shows.
Federal regulators have been under pressure to improve oil train safety after several derailments in recent years, including one that killed 47 people in Quebec last July.
Railroads were ordered in May to provide the traffic flow summaries about trains carrying more than 1 million gallons of crude oil from the Bakken region. According to the data released Friday, the BNSF and Canadian Pacific trains carrying the Bakken crude pass through 39 of Minnesota's 87 counties.
"We are getting a fuller picture of what is actually passing through our communities that have densely populated areas right next to these rail lines," Rep. Frank Hornstein, chairman of the Minnesota House transportation finance committee, said of the state's decision to release the oil train data.
In letters accompanying the reports, BNSF and Canadian Pacific officials had asked state officials to keep the oil train data private. Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mona Dohman decided to release the data Friday after reviewing it with Homeland Security and Emergency Management staff, and after the Federal Railroad Administration decided it was not sensitive security information.
The reports also show that Duluth and Rochester have no Bakken oil train traffic.
Dave Christianson, senior rail planner for freight at the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said a few trains carrying crude oil from Canada pass through Duluth on another railroad, but the reports were required only of Bakken crude oil.
From Moorhead, BNSF sends 10 oil trains southbound and 35 trains eastbound per week. Exact routes aren't specified in the reports, but most of the shipments eventually pass St. Cloud.
Both BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth and Canadian Pacific spokesman Ed Greenberg told The Associated Press on Saturday that safety remains a priority, but they declined to comment specifically about the reports.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com