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Meeting discusses potential railroad crossing closures

The Perham City Council, Perham Township Officials, and representatives from the BNSF Railroad and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) discussed the possibility of improving or closing railroad crossings around Perham at a joint meeting on Oct. 27.

Paul DeLaRosa, rail project manager with the Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations, MnDOT, and Lynn Leibfried, manager, public projects of BNSF railroad, presented to the City Council and Township officials on the cost of creating and maintaining railroad crossings.

Perham sits along a busy railroad line from Chicago to Seattle, DeLaRosa and Leibfried said, and this necessitates the need for safe and maintained crossings.

Roughly 50-60 trains pass through Perham a day, in addition to two Amtrak trains that pass through town typically at a speed of 79 miles per hour, DeLaRosa said.

Because of the busy train activity, DeLaRosa said, and because of past accidents at railroad crossings in town, MnDOT had identified several crossings in town as candidates to be closed.

"Nobody wants to close a crossing," DeLaRosa said, "but a closure helps your risk, and it helps the costs of maintaining all the other crossings. A crossing that isn't there is the safest crossing."

DeLaRosa pointed to railroad crossings at 425th, 450th, and 460th avenues as the most likely candidates to be closed.

After discussion between the council and the township, it was decided that the crossing at 425th avenue should not be closed because of its access to the north side of town.

A similar argument was made for keeping the 460th crossing open, because of the importance of that route for farmers with heavy machinery.

The crossing at 450th avenue emerged as the most likely of the three candidates to be closed. If 450th is closed, Leibfried said that she would offer either to pave an alternate access to Highway 10 that would be used by redirected traffic, or $45,000 that could be split between the city and the township.

In addition, DeLaRosa said, MnDOT has identified money for improving other railroad crossings around Perham, and depending on how much money is spent on the 450th project, there could be money for adding crossing signals to other crossings.

Leibried and DeLaRosa also explored the possibility of closing railroad crossings in town. Both the council and the township agreed that closing a crossing in town would be much more difficult, especially with the truck patterns coming and going from Bongards' Creameries and Tuffy's.

Leibfried asked the council and the township to spend the next few weeks discussing if they would accept a closure of the crossing at 450th, and what incentive they would prefer.

The next meeting, where the closing will likely be finalized, was set for sometime after Thanksgiving.