Shippers, cities, counties and communities that are served by the Twin Cities and Western (TC&W) railroad may be severely impacted by decisions currently being considered by the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council (Met Council).

Shippers, cities, counties and communities that are served by the Twin Cities and Western (TC&W) railroad may be severely impacted by decisions currently being considered by the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council (Met Council).

Since 2004, TC&W has been involved in discussions with Hennepin County (2004-2012) and with the Met Council (2013 to present) regarding the Met Council’s project to build the Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) within the freight rail corridor used by TC&W. The corridor is the main western route to bring rail freight to and from St. Paul for interchange with other railroads such as BNSF, CN, CP, UP, and the Minnesota Commercial Railway, as well as ports on the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers.

The corridor consists of 6.2 miles of track currently owned by CP and 2.5 miles owned by Hennepin County. Both are proposing to transfer their freight railtrack ownership to the Met Council as part of its SWLRT project.

TC&W uses 16,000 feet of side tracks in the existing CP-owned corridor to sort railcars received in St. Paul, assemble trains, park unit trains, for trespassing trains to meet, and to hold rail cars for sorting.

The Met Council plans to remove those 16,000 feet of side tracks with no plan to build replacement tracks. Steve Birkey, a local scrap metal shipper, is worried about how such a move would affect rail shippers in outstate Minnesota. “The eight mile section of track is the TC&W’s only viable route to the rail yard in St. Paul. The economic impact would be felt in all communities to the west of the cities,” he said.

Birkey has shipped scrap metal with TC&W for over 20 years. “We are so lucky to have TC&W because they appreciate all their customers. They really bend over backwards to help small shippers,” Birkey said.

That is not always the case with the big railroads, who often prefer working with larger shippers as they feel they can’t make enough money with small shippers.

“The railroad is so important for our rural economy,” Birkey said. “It is vital in attracting and keeping businesses, and if we lose it, it would hurt our local economy.”

On Wednesday, April 4, the Met Council filed with the federal Surface Transportation Board to acquire the tracks that TC&W uses in the operation of its business. The STB is taking comments on this for only 20 days, with a deadline of April 23 for letters to be received. TC&W is hoping the STB will allow for an extended public comment period.

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