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Minnesota city issues tickets to railroad for tying up traffic

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The widely publicized North Dakota oil boom has increased train traffic across Minnesota, which is causing safety concerns and tying up traffic at numerous rail crossings in the state.

People living in Benson, about 125 miles west of the Twin Cities, have gotten so frustrated with trains blocking three of the town's intersections that police have issued tickets to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway company, according to KARE 11.

"Many, many times you're getting ready for work, and you can hear the whistle just starting to come and you know you might as well stay home," Cathy Chevalier Lien, a Benson resident, told the news station.

Benson Police Chief Ian Hodge told KARE 11 that they've issued four citations to the railroad for blocking streets for longer than 10 minutes, which is the maximum allowed by state law. The Swift County Monitor-News reported in April that the railroad has been ticketed seven times in the last year, recalling one time the train blocked an intersection for nearly two hours.

The railroad plans to go to court June 19 to fight the $1,200 worth of tickets, according to reports.

"Railroad operations are regulated at the federal level, to ensure efficient operation of the national railroad network. Minnesota's blocked crossing statute, as well as enforcement practices of local agencies, conflict with these federal requirements," Amy McBeth, a Burlington Northern spokeswoman, told KARE 11.

City officials acknowledge the railroad's success and say that the railroad has also helped Benson's economy, but they say it's become commonplace for residents to wait 30 to 45 minutes to cross the tracks and something needs to change, the Star Tribune reports.

The Swift County Monitor-News reported in February that after waiting for 20 minutes at a railroad crossing, a young person in Benson crawled under the idle train to get to the other side because they were so sick of waiting for the train to move.

There's even a place to check in at "waiting at the train crossing" for Benson on the social networking app Foursquare.

Officials note that the traffic delays in Benson are also a public safety issue because there are no options for fire trucks and emergency vehicles to get around the trains, the newspaper says.

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