Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Trains, Trains and More Trains And Oh Yes, Automobiles

Two weeks ago I was on my way to the hospital to visit my new granddaughter, I came up to the intersection of 26th Street and Southeastern Ave.

I saw the long train of liquid tank cars parked on the tracks that parallel Southeastern Ave. It is a common sight to see long lines of rail cars parked on the tracks between Marson Ave. and 26th Street.  Just as I turned left onto 26th Street the railroad crossing lights came on.

I told my grandson that we were in for a bit of wait. We counted 113 cars as they passed over the crossing at 26th Street. The wait was over 10 minutes. This train crossing would go on to block the street crossing at Southeastern and River Boulevard and on Cliff near Drake Springs Pool as it travelled to downtown Sioux Falls.

It was 3:27 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon. When the train finally cleared the 26th Street crossing, traffic to the west was backed up past Yeager. Traffic on the I-229 26th Street exit was backed up to I-229. Who knows how far traffic was backed up east of the 26th Street intersection at Southeastern Ave or the other directions. It was a Saturday afternoon, not a week day. A light traffic day. Tell me what happens to the response times of an ambulance, fire truck or police car stuck in one of these east side traffic jams because of the train traffic?

The point is traffic in the east side corridor of Sioux Falls has a big time back-up when those 100 plus trains crawl through this corridor on their way into downtown Sioux Falls or on their way out of downtown Sioux Falls. Just imagine the traffic build up when this occurs around 7:30-8 a.m. during the week or in the afternoon hours of a work week. Just imagine the additional train traffic that will occur with the reality of the Canton siding alternative.

Then imagine what it will be like if the City Council approves the Canton Siding Alternative and you live or work in the east side corridor and need to travel over the crossings at 49th and Southeastern Ave, 26th and Southeastern, River Boulevard and Southeastern and Cliff Ave/near Drake Springs Pool crossing. Long trains and long waits are in your future.

Today, the ARGUS LEADER reports the only remaining option to move trains through town would be a second line paralleling the existing line in southeastern Sioux Falls. The second line would allow a train to switch its engine from one end to the other and then allow the train to travel back through the city. Just great. They will travel through all those street grade crossings in east Sioux Falls, to switch the engine from one end to the other and then travel all the way back the way they came in the first place. Does that make sense?

A couple things wrong with this idea:
  • The Canton Siding Alternative sacrifices the quality of life of southeast and east Sioux Falls.
  • The Canton Siding Alternative sacrifices the residential housing development between 57th and 69th Street.
  • The Canton Siding Alternative sacrifices traffic flow of east and southeast Sioux Falls.
  • The $36 million earmark is not enough to pay for this project.
  • There are too many street grade crossings that will inhibit traffic flow patterns.
  • There will be increased train traffic though southeastern Sioux Falls by creating a new siding alternative in a completely residential environment.
  • There is fierce opposition from residents in Southeastern Sioux Falls to the Canton siding alternative.
  • BNSF has declined to contribute any money to this project. They are happy where they are at right now.
This stance does not mean I am no longer a supporter of Downtown. What it does mean is the city needs to do a better job of coming up with alternative options for this project than to take the easy way out and sacrifice the residential area in southeast Sioux Falls. They haven't done that yet. Nor have they talked about a plan to deal with the multiple grade crossings, the traffic gridlock and  what increased train traffic will do to cut off access due to the Canton siding alterntive option. The city needs to go back to the drawing board. In six years, the southeast option was never brought up as an option until this past year. Meanwhile, the city allowed new residential development to spring up along this corridor.


  1. Jennifer can you copy and paste my comment from last post from previous rail discussion. Thanks and Thank you for keeping we the citizens informed on the workings of the city's political side.

  2. Jen, my frustration is with the fact that our city leaders would rather spend $150M of taxpayers money on an arena that might money while we sit on $36M that the feds gave us to use. That money was there the first day Huether was in office and he decided to ignore it to sell us the arena.

    1. You are SOOOOOO right, Andy.

  3. After reading the paper this morning I got a pretty good chuckle. Not only did BSNF decline to kick in any money to help relocate but made people aware that this is not there plan but SF's and they are just trying to be "good corporate citizen". Then to top it off our Mayor states how he saved the city money by taking a charter flight for 3000 and some dollars for the 10 attendies instead of 10 seperate plane tickets. I am really glad he had the taxpayers money put to best use. I mean really could you imagine how much it would have cost to drive a few vehicles or rent a limo to take them there for the day. Maybe our Great Mayor should look at purchasing a plane for the citie if a few hour drive to a meeting and a few back is to inconvenient for those attending the meeting. South east SF we better get ready for train delays as BSNF stated that there will be more than one extra train a day like our leaders were telling us. I wonder what else they are not telling us.

  4. There is NO precedence for our local government taking a chartered plane to Minneapolis. We did NOT need 10 people to go to Minneapolis to hear BNSF tell us "No." We could have saved $3,000 and called them on the telephone. They would have said NO on the phone too. He didn't save us any money, he spent it.

    It's a pattern though isn't it? He's so good at spending money but we don't see any savings. Our city has spent over $600,000 approved by the City Council and hundreds of thousands more in salaried time to work on the events center. Did you know there's a city engineer who was moved to work on the EC 100% of the time? That's the kind of junk this administration does. They spend SO much money to back up their own agenda versus doing what's best for the community. They have waited YEARS to deal with this issue and now the money is going to go away.

    The transportation bill that the feds passed will take our $36,000,000 back. That's on the Mayor and the Council for not paying attention. Their job is to have vision and their only vision seems to be spending our money with no real purpose. Does anyone else see the missed opportunity here? Does anyone else see a Mayor who DIDN'T want to have 13 acres open in the middle of the city because then an events center could have actually fit!

    People may accuse me (always anonymously of course) of obsessing about the events center but I can't think of another issue that will waste more money or time in our city's history all without knowing if it will be successful. You think 13 acres in the middle of city will fail to develop? Of course it will! You think the arena is going to make money? NOBODY KNOWS.

    This is all so sad.

  5. BNSF is in a catbird and the nonsense about being a "good corporate citizen" is swill.
    A few years back, they were ready to abandon a never-used line just south of Lincoln High. They were ready to just walk away. Then theyheard that the School system was interested in the property to expand Lincoln's parking and practice facilities. Suddenly a piece of property they were ready to walk away from became worth a million dollars. That ridiculous sum was never paid - the schools eventually got the property.
    In this case, the city came to BNSF. And as long as it doesn't cost them a nickel - in fact, reducing their costs would be preferable - BNSF is willing to play. The southeastern "preference" appears to be nothing more than a smack in the kisser. A corporate finger flipped at Sioux Falls. "That works for us because we know it won't work for you." It is the most illogical move of all of them - precisely because of all the grade crossings that would suddenly turn into traffic nightmares while the trains meander through the city, only to turn around and and come back again.
    There have been a number of alternatives presented already - the bridge over the Falls, moving the switching area off Rice to the northeast...and a rail being built near the airport. Directly north of the city is a problem because of terrain and potential flooding issues.
    So, if the city needs to do a better job of presenting alternatives, what might those alternatives be?
    Could the city "eminent domain" the downtown rail yard?

  6. Bahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!! The city of SF is no where even close to the power of the railroad but I sure would enjoy seeing our Great Mayor try.