ROCHESTER, Minn. — Safety, potential accidents and quality of life concerns are prompting nearly 70 percent of Rochester residents to oppose plans to increase freight train traffic through their city, a new survey shows. The survey of more than 500 Rochester residents, conducted October 8-16, also shows strong public sentiment for area elected officials to resist plans to expand freight rail traffic in the city.
The Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) recently acquired the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad (DM&E) and associated tracks through downtown Rochester. During the acquisition, CP officials outlined plans to upgrade tracks through Rochester in anticipation of increasing the frequency and speed of trains through the city. Currently, only two to three trains a day traveling 10 miles per hour move through Rochester.
“This survey clearly demonstrates what city officials have been emphasizing all along: that the citizens of Rochester are concerned about public safety and oppose plans to increase freight traffic,” said Ardell Brede, Rochester Mayor. “The poll also finds that nearly 87 percent of our community rates the quality of life in Rochester as excellent or good. We have been trying to work with rail officials for almost a decade to make them realize that high-speed freight trains, some that may be carrying hazardous materials, will be detrimental to public safety, emergency response and our quality of life in many ways.”
According to the survey results:
— 7 in 10 people oppose CP’s plan to operate more and faster freight trains through Rochester. Forty-six percent strongly oppose and only 10 percent strongly support.
— 3 in 4 say elected officials should resist an increase in ethanol and hazardous material train traffic through downtown Rochester.
— 1 in 3 (32 percent) are not at all confident that CP can safely transport hazardous materials through Rochester.
— Only 2 in 10 think Canadian Pacific can safely run more trains at higher speeds if tracks are upgraded.
— Residents’ main concerns were the increased risk of chemical spills, derailments, delays to emergency personnel, accidents at rail crossings and increases in traffic congestion.