HJ/EDEnterprise Dispatch, Jan. 23, 2006

Dassel wants railroad crossing fixed

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

The City of Dassel is negotiating with Burlington Northern Railroad about an unsafe pedestrian crossing at Third Street and trains blocking north-south traffic through town for long periods of time.

The timbers in the crossing at 3rd Street are rotten, causing a depression in the street that might result in someone tripping. The wheels of Darin Packard’s wheel chair have already caught in the depression and tipped him out of the chair onto the tracks, Packard told the city council Tuesday.

“It’s not a safe pedestrian crossing,” City Administrator Myles McGrath said.

Public Works Director Dave Scepaniak has been negotiating with the railroad’s property manager, Lynn Leibfried. The railroad already upgraded the Fourth Street crossing in Dassel, and is reluctant to spend more than 20 percent of the cost to repair the Third Street crossing, McGrath said.

When the Fourth Street crossing was upgraded, six-foot long slabs of concrete were put in the entire width of the crossing.

“I’m looking at that as an expensive undertaking,” McGrath said about doing the same for Third Street.

Instead, he proposed using just one six-foot panel for a pedestrian crossing on Third Street. McGrath estimated the materials would cost one-fifth of what the Fourth Street crossing totaled.

Council members also commented about the complaints they have heard about the railroad using Dassel as a “switching yard.” Council Member Robert Wilde said there is a spur on the east side of town. When the railroad uses the spur for storage, the time it takes to uncouple a railroad car from a train and move it into the spur blocks traffic through town from 45 minutes to an hour, he said.

Dassel Police Officer Jory Steinkraus and the council discussed how and if it is possible to issue a citation to a train for blocking the city from end to end.

As of Wednesday, neither Leibfried nor anyone from Burlington Northern returned phone calls.

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