Sudden freight rail expansion in NE Mpls. has residents fuming

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Residents in northeast Minneapolis will have less protection from the oil and freight trains that pass their homes – thanks to a new line that infringes on property they thought was theirs.

The Business Journal reports that residents living near freight railway lines will be affected by Burlington Northern Santa Fe's (BNSF) plans to alleviate "bottleneck" problems at connections by expanding its track.

It will involve tearing out trees along 7th St. NE that currently help cut the noise of trains for local residents, and it will also require a new retaining wall between Lowry and 22nd Avenues to support an embankment.

"The noise abatement these trees used to have will basically disappear," local resident Dennis Rucinko told KSTP.

What's more, KSTP reports, surveyors have drawn property lines for the embankment – based on city land records – which run through people's yards, garages and fences. Rucinko said this could well lead to a "property dispute."

According to the Star Tribune, residents living near lines on NE. Washington St. and Lowry Ave. returned home to find surveyor stakes in their yards, and the railroad wants them to enter into long-term agreements (ie. leases) if they want to continue the parts of their homes that are apparently on railroad property.

"They aggressively told us this is their land, they could do what they want," resident Kaline Sandven told the newspaper, who saw her cherry trees uprooted by crews on Thursday. "They don’t need permits, they don’t need environmental studies. They don’t need to study the impact of the devaluation of our homes."

Northeast is "Plan B" for BNSF

The Star Tribune said the new track will be 14-feet closer to property lines than currently, with 18-feet between properties and the new retaining wall.

The move has been described as BNSF's "Plan B" having initially put forward a plan to divert more trains on a new rail link south via Crystal and Robbinsdale, which KARE 11 reported was met with uproar from local leaders who expressed safety concerns.

This plan was ultimately stopped by Hennepin County and the state legislature.

A BNSF spokesperson told KSTP that the new line in northeast will not bring new train traffic, but will instead will provide another outlet for trains already moving through the area.

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