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Posted by David Schott (+16946) 6 years ago
I saw a BNSF ad in the Miles City Star that said trains passing through Miles City will no longer be slowing to 25 mph. Trains will be passing through town at speeds up to 60 mph.

That's pretty fast to be passing through town. Are they really going that fast now?

EDIT: Max. speed is 60 mph not 70 mph. Here's the advertisement:

BNSF Speedy Trains Ad

[Edited by David Schott (7/10/2015 12:17:44 PM)]
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+11728) 6 years ago
Not yet. They are rebuilding the crossings and doing all sorts of track maintenance and, so far, trains are going slower than normal. We assume they will speed up eventually.
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Posted by David Schott (+16946) 6 years ago
The City of Miles City has historically tried to enforce a slower speed limit on trains passing through town. Did the city lose that battle?
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+11728) 6 years ago
Everybody lost that battle. Interstate commerce cannot be regulated by local entities.

Watched a car driving through the new barriers today. Genius in action.
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Posted by Patrick Petroff (+67) 6 years ago
The crossing upgrades and maintenance are done in Miles City. Trains were able to go through town at higher speeds starting yesterday. Please be aware fellow Miles Citians at the crossings so we can keep everyone safe! Be especially careful at the Spotted Eagle crossing (no gates) and please don't cross on foot at undesignated areas near Reynold's, the old depot, and the high school like so many do.

[Edited by Patrick Petroff (7/11/2015 8:37:45 AM)]
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Posted by Tim Wagoner (+758) 6 years ago
Tell BNSF to put up fences if they don't want people to cross tracks there. I've seen it done that way in towns all over the US.

Matter of fact I have been thinking of walking over to Reynolds myself and I damn sure will cross in the spot there.
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Posted by Gunnar Emilsson (+17223) 6 years ago
Like it or not, railroads settled the west, and for that, they enjoy certain privileges.

I believe Miles City and fast trains can live together harmoniously, as that is how the Hi-Line deals with Amtrak.

Blame the liberals for stalling the Keystone XL pipeline. No reason why that crude shouldn't be piped safely underground instead of on high speed rail through small towns like MC.

Yes, blame the hippies.

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Posted by Forsyth Mike (+473) 6 years ago
The ad mentions the "Forsyth subdivision" but so far I haven't noticed trains going any faster than usual through Forsyth yet. Although the railroad has got a very big project in the works (killing a few towns and eliminating a bunch of jobs while trying to spin it as "improving their service") so maybe they're behind schedule.
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+11728) 6 years ago
There is a program that involves no train whistles and high fences. The municipality along the route is expected to pay for a major chunk. And we know that's not going to happen.

Just don't be stupid. Don't drive around the barriers. Don't have your tunes cranked up so high you can't hear anything. Don't be arguing with your special someone while driving.
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Posted by David Schott (+16946) 6 years ago
Remember 10 years ago when the BNSF train derailed near the 10th Street crossing? I wonder what that derailment would have looked like at 60 mph.
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Posted by KATLRadio (+173) 6 years ago
BNSF Trains have already begun traveling 60MPH. However, some of the trains will continue to travel at 30MPH. BNSF installed new sensors at several rail-road crossings that can pick up when the train is 1000 feet down the track.
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Posted by Tim Wagoner (+758) 6 years ago
A thought occurred to me the other day concerning the depot. Does the faster trains pose a hazard to potential businesses if the depot was to be purchased, or is that off the table now?
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Posted by David Schott (+16946) 6 years ago
Tim, the last message posted on this site re: the depot indicated that BNSF was still insisting on a 30-day vacate clause for any lease on the depot. Here.

I believe that BNSF had always wanted to have a fence between the depot and the tracks to keep people using the depot building away from the trains. Of course if a train were to derail there at 60 mph I'm not sure I'd want to be sitting trackside enjoying a plate of spaghetti fence or no fence.
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Posted by David Schott (+16946) 6 years ago
Here you go:

Toledo Blade: Trains jump track, hurt 3; debris from derailments slams into autos

NORTH BALTIMORE, Ohio Three motorists were hurt yesterday when about 15 cars of a CSX Transportation Corp. freight train derailed while traveling through town, showering their vehicles with wreckage and striking a second train that also derailed.

North Baltimore police Chief Gerald E. Perry II said it was miraculous that Bob Loe, 48, the village's streets superintendent who was driving the car closest to the tracks, survived the derailment.

The roof of Mr. Loe s car was crushed down to the doors by a plate of steel thrown from a careening freight car
, yet he remained conscious, calm, and talkative while rescuers extricated him.


Read more here.
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Posted by Bridgier (+9172) 6 years ago
Why do you keep posting about trains in other towns Dave, this is Miles City?
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Posted by Jeri Dalbec (+3209) 6 years ago
Actually, I found Dave's article very interesting and thought provoking. The areas that can be affected should something happen could certainly have an effect on Real Estate that is for sale...also, you think of the number of beautiful horses who live near the Spotted Eagle Turnoff, and...much, much more. No reason they shouldn't honor the same speed limits that we do when driving in town. Maybe it will solve the problem of refurbishing the old Depot? Lots to think about. They go fast enough through this town IMO.
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Posted by Elizabeth Emilsson (+796) 6 years ago
I would worry about my child walking across the tracks. I have seen over passes over high speed highways and train tracks across the country. I t should be considered by the mayor and council it seems the railroad and the City should be working to ensure safety issues rather than butt heads over whether they can go that fast or not.

Dave posed other concern such as derailment. The railroads have been known for not properly maintain the tracks. Derailments occur and then they get busy and do track maintenance.
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Posted by Amorette Allison (+11728) 6 years ago
Local municipalities cannot legally regulate interstate commerce. Railroads are interstate commerce. This is not just a Miles City issue. Every town in the country that has a railroad track running through it has this problem.

There was a minor derailment on the high line this morning with some track torn up but no cars falling over. No word on the cause.
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Posted by Forsyth Mike (+473) 6 years ago
Elizabeth Emilsson wrote:
I t should be considered by the mayor and council it seems the railroad and the City should be working to ensure safety issues rather than butt heads

The mayor or city council has no power over the railroad. They do whatever the 'givl' they want.

No wonder "the railroad" was always portrayed as a big, bad, mean old company in "Little House on the Prairie" and "Petticoat Junction." They were telling the truth!
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Posted by David Schott (+16946) 6 years ago
I think the city council should have the city attorney draft a letter to BNSF expressing concerns about the safety of trains passing through town at 60 mph and encouraging BNSF to continue to slow down as they pass through the city as they have historically done.

There are six grade crossings in or very near the city limits, two of which don't have crossing gates, and one of which (Edgewood [Rivenes?] Street) doesn't even have flashing lights. Leighton Blvd's crossing signal should be tied to the traffic light at Valley Drive E so that any eastbound traffic stopped at that light and encroaching on the railraod crossing is given a green light and cleared before the train arrives.

It should also be noted that there are numerous occupied buildings near the railroad right-of-way including the plant near the 4th Street crossing that has tanks containing... ammonia?

It seems to me there are a lot of reasons why it would be prudent for BNSF trains to slow down when passing through the city limits.
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Posted by MeiMei (+166) 6 years ago
The Leighton/Valley drive already is programmed to do exactly what you suggest.
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Posted by David Schott (+16946) 6 years ago
Great news. Thanks, MeiMei.
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Posted by cubby (+2625) 6 years ago
Edgewood has flashing lights and crossing gates.
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Posted by David Schott (+16946) 6 years ago
You're right, Cubby, the BNSF mainline at Edgewood does have lights and gates. There are two track crossings on Edgewood, another one for a siding for QualaWash. When I looked at the crossing in Google Streets last night I was erroneously looking at the crossing for the QualaWash siding which doesn't have lights. Looking at the wrong crossing -- I couldn't believe they didn't even have lights at the Edgewood crossing.
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Posted by Tom Masa (+2036) 6 years ago
Today I was at a local business here in Minot that is located near the tracks. Several trains were moving on the BNSF tracks and going very slow. BNSF has multiple tracks and several facilities here. This train did look like it was on the main tracks though. I have sat at a crossing in the country with a train going very fast and can't imagine that in a larger town like MC. Someone is going to get hit or even a small? derailment would really make a mess.
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Posted by MRH (+1499) 6 years ago
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Posted by MilesCity.com Webmaster (+9999) 6 years ago
BNSF seeks to speed up to 60 mph through Miles City

Burlington Northern Santa Fe has a green light to speed through Miles City at up to 60 mph, and the town isn’t happy.

“The town is pretty upset about it, to tell you the truth,” said Butch Grenz, Miles City mayor. “I have got more unhappy constituents over this than anything else.”

Caught between the busy switchyards of Glendive and Forsyth, Miles City is no stranger to trains. But the southeast Montana town, known for its cowboys and annual Bucking Horse sale, is mostly a pass-through for BNSF.

The railroad’s path bisects the town, with city hall a couple blocks west of the tracks and Custer County High School a block to the east. There are 13 blocks of homes fronting the tracks on the east side.

Grenz said he got a notice in the mail from BNSF several weeks ago that the track was classified by the Federal Railroad Administration for speeds up to 60 miles per hour.

“We all feel it’s just unsafe,” Grenz said. “They used to have a maximum speed for cars that had oil or whatever of 20 mph. Now, they lifted those speeds, too.”

Grenz said he used to be a section driver for the railroad, which does side cars in Miles City in a yard that includes at least 15 sidings and it's at times filled with hazardous materials tank cars, or empty strings of coal shuttle cars. The mayor said he believes trains are speeding up because Berkshire Hathaway, which bought BNSF several years ago, is getting its money from the trains. Berkshire is the diversified holding company of Nebraska billionaire Warren Buffett.

“What you’re seeing is Mr. Buffett is a better businessman than the last owners of the railroad were,” Grenz said.

In the past few years, BNSF has invested more than $100 million in its southern line across Montana, which stretches from Glendive to Laurel, where the loads are transferred to Montana Rail Link to be hauled into the Idaho Panhandle.

BNSF has installed sidings long enough for a mile-long train to leave the mainline and keep rolling while another train passes by. This year, the railroad is relocating workers from Glendive and Forsyth to Laurel as it transitions to longer runs.

But timing is everything on a single rail line with trains traveling in both directions. Speed is part of the BNSF equation, concurred Matt Jones, BNSF spokesman for Montana.

“We have obviously invested a lot of money to increase capacity in the northern corridor, $100 million on the Forsyth subdivision, between Jones Junction and Glendive,” Jones said. “A lot of that was to increase capacity. Increasing capacity includes longer sidings and things like that. In order to increase capacity, we have to increase efficiency.”

In the past two years, BNSF has struggled to move all the freight needing track time across Montana. From fall 2013 through last summer, Montana and North Dakota grain trains were on a track space waiting list that sometimes stretched for more than a month. Power plants in the Midwest sweated not having enough coal piled on the ground to comfortably keep their steam turbines running.

Customers from specific industries accused BNSF of catering to oil shipments at the expense of grain and coal. The railroad faulted the congestion on weather and construction delays as it tried to improve track in order to accommodate more trains.

BNSF also added 250 locomotives to its fleet so it could get freight moving.

The increased speed through Miles City was not BNSF’s doing, Jones said. The government made the call.

“The Federal Railroad Administration determines what class a track is, and they set the maximum allowable train speeds,” Jones said. “The track through Miles City has been class 4 track for some time. I don’t know when it was upgraded, but it has been for some time.”

BNSF argues that the railroad has fewer accidents when trains move at higher, consistent speeds because it’s safer than accelerating and decelerating trains over the long haul. Not all trains will travel at the maximum speed, Jones said.

Miles City is the latest town to see train speeds increase, but it isn’t the only one with 60 mph speeds. Hardin, Hinsdale, Lodge Grass and Malta are towns with 60 mph train limits.

In the past year, track speeds have also increased in Casper, Wyo., and Devil’s Lake, Wyo., to 50 mph.

Last week U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., wrote BNSF about the change in Miles City. He also spoke to the media about it.

“Just because you can go that fast, doesn’t mean you should,” Tester said.

In a letter to BNSF CEO Carl R. Ice, Tester asked that the railroad meet with Miles City townspeople to review the speed change, which affect four town crossings.

“These grade crossings are in relatively busy areas of Miles City, where it is essential to maintain safety standards tailored specifically for high-traffic areas,” Tester said. “I urge BNSF to engage with community leaders to review the speed change decision and to consider alternative options.”

Montana Railink, with track from Billings to the Idaho Panhandle has no plans to increase the speed of its trains, a company spokesman told The Gazette.

http://billingsgazette.co...ca839.html
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Posted by KATLRadio (+173) 6 years ago
Last week, our News/Sports Director Andrew Bern participated in a conference call with Senator Jon Tester and asked him directly about the speed increase and the fact that Miles Citians had no input in the matter.

Senator Tester has since written a letter to BNSF President/CEO Carl Ice expressing his concerns with the increase and urging BNSF to engage with community leaders and affected citizens.
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Posted by David Schott (+16946) 6 years ago
Sounds like someone should be talking to the Federal Railroad Administration:

Federal Railroad Administration
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Posted by UM Griz (+166) 6 years ago
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Posted by Joe Whalen (+623) 6 years ago
Is the Interstate Highway System less safe than a two-lane road winding its way through a network of towns and throttling traffic between 25 mph and 65 mph?

Is a tanker hauling 30,000 gallons of liquid hammered back-and-forth from braking less prone to derailment than one steadied by constant speed?

If the liquid sloshing inside of the rail car is Bakken crude gassing off higher vapor pressure inside the tank, is it more or less likely to explode than one producing less "motion in the ocean?"

Assuming properly maintained switches, crossing gates and roadbed, can it be true that oil trains are generally safer when they take longer to roll through town?

Since slower trains back up more traffic at crossings, are they then more safe in the event of a derailment? If the underpass is flooded and a slow train prevents first responders from crossing from east to west to an emergency event can we call that an acceptable risk?

Are the fates of our local nominees for the annual Darwin Awards any less certain with slower trains?

These are just a few of the questions that came to mind as shorter horn blasts signaled a freight smoking through town tonight.
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Posted by David Schott (+16946) 6 years ago
Questions:

1. What caused the derailment at the 10th Street crossing in 2005?

2. How can BNSF ensure that a similar derailment won't happen in the future and why didn't they take such steps to prevent the derailment in 2005?

3. How does a derailment at 25 mph compare to a derailment at 60 mph?
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Posted by Tim Wagoner (+758) 6 years ago
Not completely sure, but I was told a knuckle broke and hung up on the track/ties or concrete of the crossing.

BNSF can't ensure anything, but they can do their best to try.

At 60 MPH I would surmise the Engineer would tell the Conductor, "Hold on Leroy, you have never seen a wreck like the one we're fix'in to have"

Of course it is going to be worse if it happens.....

[Edited by Tim Wagoner (7/30/2015 1:09:30 AM)]
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Posted by Tom Masa (+2036) 6 years ago
.

[Edited by Tom Masa (7/30/2015 9:05:21 AM)]
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Posted by Mary Catherine Dunphy (+2906) 6 years ago
Greetings from Arlington, Virginia to my friends in Miles City.

Yesterday I went to the Dirksen Office Building on Capitol Hill and spoke with Senator Tester and Rep. Ryan Zinke about this issue; and hand-delivered a letter to both that I had written to Senator Tester about fast trains in Miles City. I suggest each of you write a letter expressing concern to Senators Tester, Daines and Congressman Zinke. Unfortunately, there are no police to give BNSF a ticket for speeding trains -- or reckless criminal endangerment.

Here is the text of my letter to Senator Tester:

Senator Jon Tester
United States Senate
706 Hart Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Re: Miles City and the Danger of High Speed BNSF Trains

Dear Senator Tester:

I am writing you because Mayor Butch Grenz, and my friends and former neighbors in Miles City, Montana, are very worried and concerned about the recent decision by the BNSF railroad to raise the speed limit of trains passing through Miles City to 60 mph. Mayor Grenz informs me that hazmat speeds have been lifted. He and many other citizens are worried because they believe this decision by BNSF puts the entire community at risk for the type of disaster that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Canada in 2013.

Senator Tester, in 2005, Miles City experienced a BNSF train derailment at the 10th Street rail crossing, when a loaded coal train, traveling at only 28 mph, experienced a malfunction, and the fourth coal car and eight cars behind it derailed. I was living on Missouri Avenue at the time, and have never heard such a big bang as I heard that day. I was amazed by all the twisted metal, spilt coal and ruined train cars. At that time, a BNSF representative was quoted in the press as saying they dodged a bullet. If those derailed train cars had been oil tankers, it would have been a very different story. Miles City did dodge a bullet that day but how many bullets can Miles City dodge if trains are racing through town at 60 mph?

There are 4 railroad crossings in Miles City, and there is a railroad overpass/bridge across Main Street within 100 yards of Custer County High School. As a reminder, the 10th Street railroad crossing in Miles City is located very close to the District Courthouse building, the jail, the city’s emergency operations center, and the public library. City Hall is slightly further away. All these buildings and others in downtown Miles City, are in the blast zone should oil tankers derail, catch fire and explode. There are numerous family homes located very close to the Leighton Boulevard railroad crossing. People living in those homes would be incinerated if there was an oil car derailment and explosion. Two of those families that I can immediately think of are the Miles Milligan family and the Basil Pius family. Your friends, Terry and Deborah Hanson and Joe and Jeri Dalbec live close to the 10th Street crossing. Additionally, the railroad crossing at Spotted Eagle recreation area has no crossing arms or signals.

Here is a link to a railroad blast zone map: www.blast-zone.org

As you probably know, last week near Culbertson, Montana, there was another BNSF oil train derailment in which 21 of 106 train cars derailed, downed a power line, forced a highway closure and leaked an estimated 35,000 gallons of crude requiring a nearby community to evacuate. According to one article I read, last Thursday’s BNSF accident is the seventh derailment this year, several of which involved fiery explosions. Roosevelt County Chief Deputy Sheriff Corey Reum told the Associated Press that “We’re lucky it didn’t ignite.”

I recently read that back in 2008, only 9,500 tank car loads of crude were transported by rail in the United States; however, by 2013, the number rose to 400,000. So, statistically the odds of an extremely unfortunate disaster involving derailed oil tankers have gone up – way up. To my way of thinking, BNSF trains going 60 mph through Miles City is reckless and endangers the public. One of my friends and fellow Democrat, Pat Mischel, who is a BNSF railroad engineer recently emailed me that “most engineers who run Glendive-Laurel and Laurel to Glendive think 60 mph through Miles City is too fast!” He also is going to see if Barry Green, Legislative Rep. for the BLET #180 Union in Glendive wants the engineers to sign a letter or petition stating that 60 mph is too fast.

I’m not a lawyer but I wondering if running BNSF trains through Miles City, could be considered reckless criminal endangerment under statutory law in Montana or federal statute. Is there someone on your staff who would check this?

I know Mayor Butch Grenz has emailed the Federal Railroad Administration and inquired if there is a way to get the trains to slow down when they pass through Miles City but has not received a response.

Is there anything you, or anyone on your staff, can do to assist in getting this accomplished so we could prevent a catastrophe from occurring in Miles City? Is there anything in the Rail Safety Improvements Act of 2008, Public Law 110-432 that might apply? Perhaps one of your staffers could contact the Chief Legal Counsel at the Federal Railroad Administration to find out. Here’s a link to that office: https://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0006

Senator Tester, I’m hoping that you, or someone on your staff, will be able to talk some sense into BNSF decision makers who think running trains through Miles City at 60 mph is a good idea. It makes me sad to think that a BNSF actuary has probably calculated the risks associated with high speed trains and a potential train derailment in Miles City (or anywhere really) as the “cost of doing business” and any death/s as “collateral damage.” I know Warren Buffet and BNSF have a lot of clout in this country, but I’m hoping you and your staff will be able to talk some sense into the decision makers there. I know the citizens of Miles City would appreciate your help.

Thanking you for your service to the people of Montana, and with best regards,

Sincerely,


Mary Catherine Dunphy
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Posted by Oddjob (+192) 6 years ago
Mary Catherine Dunphy

Thank you for your efforts in personally contacting members of the Montana Congressional Delegation concerning the idiotic move by the BNSF to run trains through Miles City at 60MPH. Your excellent letter provides a template for the rest of us to use. Now is the time for us to get off our duff and put pressure on Washington politicians and the regulatory bureaucrats who may actually be able to stop (or at least slow)this madness.

Better now than after the explosion and fire that takes out the town.

I passed your letter with a request for help on this to the Nevada Delegation of Dean Heller, Harry Reid and Mark Amodei. If the BNSF gets away with this in Montana, the UP will be doing it down here next.

[Edited by Oddjob (7/31/2015 9:11:06 AM)]
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Posted by Mary Catherine Dunphy (+2906) 6 years ago
Dear Friends in Miles City:

If you would like to write a letter to a member of Montana's Congressional delegation, here are their addresses in Washington, D.C. (When you write, please remember to state your concerns clearly and respectfully.) It was my impression the other day when I met with them, that they take this matter seriously. I've also included an address for Mr. Warren Buffett, owner of BNSF, if you would like to express your concerns to him. Thank you.

The Honorable Jon Tester
United States Senate
311 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-2604
Fax: 202-224-8594

The Honorable Steve Daines
United States Senate
320 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Ryan Zinke
United States House of Representatives
113 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Fax: 202-225-5687

Mr. Warren Buffett
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
3555 Farnam Street
Suite 1440
Omaha, NE 68131

Warren Buffet's email address is [email protected] (which I found on this website: http://www.wikihow.com/Contact-Warren-Buffett)

I hope you all are having a good day in beautiful Montana.
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Posted by landau (+2) 6 years ago
BN going to do what they want to do. Yes, I hope Miles City gets them to drop there speed down. I think we should see about BN putting up a 10 ft, fence from crossing to crossing. We need to think of the kids if they don't drop the speed down.
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Posted by Mary Catherine Dunphy (+2906) 6 years ago
Dear Oddjobs:

Thanks for contacting the Nevada Congressional Delegation regarding the speeding trains issue. Great idea!

I emailed Senator Tester's office today (08-01-15) and let the staffer there know that the Nevada delegation has been contacted about this issue; and, suggested that if the Tester office contacts the Nevada delegation they might find additional congressional support for this BNSF "Safety First" project.

We'll have to wait and see what happens.

Best regards,
Mary Catherine Dunphy
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Posted by Joe R. Whalen (+218) 6 years ago
This post was removed 6 years ago.
It was removed because it was a duplicate.
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Posted by Joe R. Whalen (+218) 6 years ago
The following is a list of oil train derailments resulting in explosions since Lac-Mégantic,alongside the speed at which each derailment occurred:
http://daily.sightline.or...-pictures/

Aliceville, Alabama: November 8, 2013 - below 40 mph (source: Federal Railway Administration)

Casselton, North Dakota: December 30, 2013 - collision with grain train @ 42 mph [source: National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)]

Plaster Rock, New Brunswick: January 8, 2014 - broken wheel caused derailment at 36 mph (source: Transportation Safety Board of Canada)

Lynchburg, Virginia: April 30, 2014 - 24 mph (source: NTSB)

Timmins, Ontario: February 16, 2015 - 38 mph (source: TSB-Canada)

Mount Carbon, West Virginia: February 16, 2015 - 33 mph (source: NTSB)

Galena, Illinois: March 6, 2015 - 23 mph (source: NTSB)

Gogama, Ontario: March 7, 2015 - 43 mph (source: TSB-Canada)

Heimdal, North Dakota: May 6, 2015 - 24 mph (source: NTSB)

*It should be noted that the Lac-Mégantic, Quebec train did derail above 60 mph but it was a runaway train, i.e. no one at the throttle or the switch.

So, are these trains traveling too fast, too slow or is speed not much of a factor? If you think there's a marked difference in safety at oil train speeds below 60 mph I'd like to see the evidence before I even consider writing a member of Congress.

p.s. - I live within 100 yards of the tracks. If I thought for a moment that high speed rather than variable speed was the greater risk with Bakken oil trains, I'd be first in line to sign a petition.

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Posted by David Schott (+16946) 6 years ago
Joe, for me it's not about oil trains. I'm concerned about what happens when a train derails at 60 mph vs. 25 mph in terms of what is a safe distance from the tracks. Do rail cars travel further from the tracks in higher speed derailments? I never liked being the first car in line at the crossing when the trains were passing at slow speed.

At what speed do trains pass through Billings?

As for oil trains, maybe BNSF should be routing those trains around populated areas (i.e. the mainline shouldn't pass through the centers of towns) to the extent that is possible. Yep, it would cost money. Or, hey, build some pipelines and get the oil off the rails.

If sloshing in oil tanker cars is so inherently dangerous it makes it sound preposterous that we would use them for shipping at all. Either that or the danger is being overstated. How many of the crashes cited above were due to sloshing/speed variation?
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Posted by Mary Catherine Dunphy (+2906) 6 years ago
This is an interesting article which examines the physics of train disasters caused by high speed.

http://www.scientificamer...-disaster/

As we know, train disasters can occur at low speed but the physics of a low speed disaster is qualitatively different than a high speed disaster.

A book about the forensics of train wrecks is "Train Wreck: The Forensics of Rail Disasters by George Bibel.

Here's a description of the book from the Amazon.com website:

"Trains are massive?-with some weighing 15,000 tons or more. When these metal monsters collide or go off the rails, their destructive power becomes clear. In this book, George Bibel presents riveting tales of trains gone wrong, the detective work of finding out why, and the safety improvements that were born of tragedy.

Train Wreck details 17 crashes in which more than 200 people were killed. Readers follow investigators as they sift through the rubble and work with computerized event recorders to figure out what happened. Using a mix of eyewitness accounts and scientific explanations, Bibel draws us into a world of forensics and human drama.

Train Wreck is a fascinating exploration of• runaway trains• bearing failures• metal fatigue• crash testing • collision dynamics• bad rails."


Human error wasn't mentioned in the book description. So, basically plenty can go wrong with trains. The multiple derailments in Montana this year attest to that.

What I'm hoping is that everyone is most interested in how to prevent train disasters from happening in the future.
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Posted by Joe R. Whalen (+218) 6 years ago
Thank you for your thoughtful posts, Mary Catherine. I enjoyed the Scientific American article, especially, as it recognizes the many factors contributing to a derailment. It reminded me of flight training, where instructors repeatedly emphasize that crashes most often occur from a series of pilot errors rather than a single misjudgment.

David, thanks for the clarification. I apologize if I misunderstood your primary concern. You're probably more motivated and just as capable of answering your questions with research. I hope you'll share what you learn re: Billings speed limit and derailment zone differences.

On the hazards of sloshing in tankers, it would be helpful to discuss the matter with anyone you might know who operates a tanker truck, especially if pulling a set of doubles. The Commercial Driver License Manual puts it this way:

Liquid surge results from movement of the liquid in partially filled tanks. This movement can have bad effects on handling. For example, when coming to a stop, the liquid will surge back and forth. When the wave hits the end of the tank, it tends to push the truck in the direction the wave is moving. If the truck is on a slippery surface such as ice, the wave can shove a stopped truck out into an intersection. The driver must be very familiar with the handling of the vehicle.


A pipeline is subject to the same impacts, commonly known as a "hammer" or hydraulic shock. Your hometown once burst three water mains simultaneously when an inexperienced water plant operator failed to execute proper start-up and shutdown procedures of the city's main water pumps.
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Posted by David Schott (+16946) 6 years ago
Montana Rail Link owns the tracks through Billings. As recently as March 31 MRL was running trains through Billings at 20 mph. BNSF set a speed limit of 35mph for oil trains passing through cities of 100,000 or more. I haven't found what speed limit the Federal Railroad Administration sets for the Billings track.

KRTV Great Falls: New rail safety measures pick up steam

Posted: Mar 31, 2015 9:29 AM PST
Updated: Mar 31, 2015 9:29 AM PST

BILLINGS - Burlington Northern Santa Fe announced last week that it's implementing a new 35 mph speed limit for trains traveling through cities with 100,000 residents or more.

BNSF said the lower speed limit will remain in place until older tank cars can be phased out in favor of new rail cars that meet new federal safety standards.

Montana Rail Link said Monday that it will follow BNSF's lead and require all crude oil trains to abide by the new 35 mph limit through major cities.

While Billings is the only city in Montana affected, MRL spokesman Jim Lewis said that it is currently reviewing speed limits for the Billings area

Right now, Lewis said, MRL limits train speeds to 20 mph through downtown Billings for a maximum of 16 hours a day.

MRL handles all train traffic along Montana's southern line from east of Billings to Sandpoint, Idaho.

As for the number of crude oil trains traveling across that southern line, last year MRL transported 53 crude trains, accounting for less than one percent of its total volume. So far in 2015, MRL has transported only nine crude oil trains.

While MRL doesn't own any tank cars, Lewis said it supports the tougher federal tank standards that's expected to be unveiled on May 12.
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Posted by Mary Catherine Dunphy (+2906) 6 years ago
Miles City isn't the only community dealing with train issues and concerns.

This morning, Thursday, 08-06-15, there was a subway train derailment in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area which affected thousands of commuters during rush hour. Here's the link to the story in case you are interested in reading about it. My understanding is that three rail cars jumped the tracks near the Smithsonian Station. There were no passengers on the train so, fortunately, nobody was injured but thousands of people were late to work, etc.

http://www.wusa9.com/stor.../31204143/
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Posted by Mary Catherine Dunphy (+2906) 6 years ago
As Miles City citizens prepare for their meeting with Rep. Zinke and his staff (and perhaps other officials) here is a list of thoughts I have been pondering. These thoughts to ponder were inspired after reading David Schott's post above indicating that in March 2015, "BNSF is implementing a new 35 mph speed limit for trains traveling through cities with 100,000 residents or more BNSF said the lower speed limit will remain in place until older tank cars can be phased out in favor of new rail cars that meet new federal safety standards."

1. Are big cities being afforded a level of protection from high speed train disasters that small towns are not?

1a. What are the new federal safety standards? Can they be found online?

2. Statistically, what is the difference in odds of a train disaster happening near a big city vs. a small town in the U.S.?

3. Does a potential train derailment that does not involve oil tankers (coal, grain, cargo) pose less danger of a catastrophic disaster than a train that does have oil tankers because of the explosion/fire potential?

4. If yes, what is an acceptable level of risk? And, how is that level of risk calculated by actuaries?

5. How many BNSF train derailments/disasters happen in a year nationwide? In Montana? How many have involved explosions? Is this information available to the public? If not, why not?

5a. How many train derailments/disaster involving all train systems occur in a year nationally?

6. What is the legal definition of reckless, criminal endangerment under U.S. Code? And, how does that legal definition or law apply to the safety concerns of BNSF going through Miles City at 60 mph -- especially when the high school and numerous family homes are within 100 yards of the railroad tracks?

7. Is the Miles City Fire Department equipped to handle a large scale disaster involving derailed and exploding oil tankers in a train disaster? Would BNSF be willing to fund a fire response unit in Miles City to assist in case of disaster?

8. What are the federal regulations governing the speed of trains carrying hazardous materials (hazmat)? Are those regulations available online?

9. If hazmat regulations have been observed by BNSF in the past, why not now?

10. Were there changes to hazmat regulations or did BNSF just decide to do something different? Is that legal or fair? Who decides?

11. If it is not safe for automobiles or oil tanker trucks to go through downtown Miles City at 60 mph, why is it considered safe for a BNSF train to do so?

12. Could fluid motion in a tanker train be considered an additional risk? What are those risks?

That's all for now. Best regards to everyone in Miles City.
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Posted by Mary Catherine Dunphy (+2906) 6 years ago
By the way, train derailments and malfunctions are getting to be a daily event here in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. According to the Washington Post the metro rail system is the country's second-largest rail system.

Yesterday it was a train derailment that affected thousands of commuters but, fortunately, did not physically injure anyone. Emotional distress, yes. According to the W. Post, there were howls of protest.

Today, "a power outage earlier in the day caused problems for riders between Ballston and W. Falls Church stations. Riders on a disabled train had to be escorted along the tracks back to the E. Falls Church station. Other Metro commuters had to deal with delays."

Channel 9 TV showed footage of people walking along side the tracks.
WUSA9.com has more on the story if you are interested.

So, as Edith Bunker once said, for commuters in this area, "today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.
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Posted by Forsyth Mike (+473) 6 years ago
We got the "word" last week that BNSF will allow trains to go thru Forsyth at 45mph.

We have 2 crossings, both with lights and gates.

People's emotions here range from outraged to "oh well they do what they want."

I'll be watching what happens in MC and hope you can get them to lower the speed.

I happen to own a business which has its building about 40 feet from the tracks. I was told by my insurance agent that if a train derailed and crashed into our building, it would be covered under "collision." (But, if it happens I'll probably be too dead to collect!)
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Posted by Mary Catherine Dunphy (+2906) 6 years ago
This morning (Sunday, 09-20-15) I read in the Washington Post an Associated Press short story which reads as follows: "The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad said seven ethanol tanker cars derailed and at least one caught fire Saturday morning in southeastern South Dakota. BNSF spokesman Andy Williams said the 98-car train carrying ethanol derailed at about 6:15 a.m. between the towns of Scotland and Lesterville. He said there were no injuries and no nearby structures were threatened by fire."

The train derailed at 6:15 a.m. and it took until 2:30 p.m. to get the fire out.

Here is a Youtube film of what the accident looked like and the firefighters fighting the fire:


Here's a print news story about the derailment:

http://www.msn.com/en-us/...ar-AAew28l

This past Wednesday I was up on Capitol Hill again meeting with the Montana Congressional Delegation about the potential of a catastrophe occurring in Miles City since BNSF decided in July to run its trains through Miles City at 60 mph. So far, they seem to be persuaded by the BNSF argument that the company has upgraded its tracks and is in compliance with the law.

Given the derailment that occurred yesterday in South Dakota, I can't help but wonder how fast the BNSF train was traveling and what was the class of track at the accident site. Clearly, the class of track did not prevent yesterday's derailment.

Given that BNSF slows its trains down in cities of 100,000, I believe that citizens of big cities are being afforded a measure of safety that the citizens of small towns are not.

The question remains on how to do this.
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Posted by Mary Catherine Dunphy (+2906) 6 years ago
Congressman Ryan Zinke will be in Miles City next Wednesday October 14, 2015 from 2:30-3:30 p.m. at USDA Fort Keogh, 243 Keogh Road.

It would be a good time for the citizens of Miles City to express your concerns to him about the BNSF trains traveling through town at 60 mph. The 2005 BNSF train derailment in Miles City happened when the train was going just 28 mph. Basic physics tells us that speed increases exponentially the amount of damage that happens during a railroad accident.


By the way, I got curious and wondered how much BNSF had contributed to Rep. Zinke, and to Senators Daines and Tester and found that:

1. BNSF contributed $17,700 to Representative Ryan Zinke;
http://maplight.org/us-co...an-k-zinke


2. Senator Daines received a $25,500 contribution from Berkshire Hathaway which is owned by Warren Buffett who owns BNSF. See item 10 on link below:
https://www.opensecrets.o...cycle=2016

And finally, there is:

3. Senator Jon Tester who received $35,800 from "railroads" cited on this link:

http://www.opensecrets.or...m=N&recs=0

Did anybody in Miles City give a campaign donation to any of these politicians to match or equal the BNSF and "railroads" donations?

I can't help but wonder who is getting the better representation from our Congressmen -- BNSF or the citizens of Miles City.

Ah, Democracy! Ah, Citizens United!
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supporter
Posted by cubby (+2625) 6 years ago
Haven't seen a train speeding through town in awhile now. I work next to the tracks and see them as they pass.
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Posted by Tim Wagoner (+758) 6 years ago
I thought that I wouldn't like the faster trains, but I have decided they are doing fine.

Faster train = less vibration = less noise = less time sitting at a crossing.

I use to hear the trains all the time, and I could feel their vibration. Now I hardly hear them enough to know they are there.
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supporter
Posted by Jeri Dalbec (+3209) 6 years ago
I think safety is the real issue especially with the High School and Main Street in close proximity. The tanker cars are going at a pretty good clip...but, it usually takes a disaster to draw attention to something that could have been prevented..just hope it is not in Miles City. Speed must have some relevance,though,as they slowdown when going through Forsyth?
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Posted by Forsyth Mike (+473) 6 years ago
I've been told that the reason it's 45 in Forsyth is, there is a non-gated crossing west of town (at Prince Inc.) that routinely has long trucks passing over the tracks, and if a train was going 60 then there wouldn't be enough time for a whole truck to get over the crossing once the train was in view. Supposedly BNSF tried to get Prince to put in a crossing gate but they'd have had to pay the six figure cost themselves.

They're "allowed" to go 45 through town now but in practice most of them are doing anywhere around 40 or less. Of course if they're on the sidings they are still going slow like always - I think the top speed is 10 or 15 on the sidings.
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Posted by Mary Catherine Dunphy (+2906) 5 years ago
For those of you interested in railroad safety, in today's Washington Post, 10-26-2015, there is an interesting article entitled, "Deadline on Rail Safety is at Risk -- Industry Clout Stalls Brake Rule; Campaign donations boost access on Hill" written by Ashley Halsey III and Michael Laris.

https://www.washingtonpos...story.html

Here's an excerpt from the article:

Since 2008, "the railroad industry has spent $316 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), to maintain one of the most savvy lobbying teams in Washington. It also contributed more than $24 million during the same period to members of Congress, targeting in particular the chairmen and members of key committees that govern its business". (Emphasis added.)

Rail safety is an important issue given that seven years ago there were 9,500 rail tank cars carrying flammable material in the United States. Last year, there were 493,126.

Given the risks, I still believe 60 mph for BNSF trains going through Miles City is unsafe; however, after reading this article, I understand why it may be impossible to persuade people in charge otherwise. However, I still think it is important that we continue trying to do so.
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Posted by Mary Catherine Dunphy (+2906) 5 years ago
The railroads and their lobbyists got their way!

"Rail deadline is eased in stopgap budget bill: Senate gives industry three more years to install brake technology" by Michael Laris and Ashley Halsey III, Washington Post, October 29, 2015.

https://www.washingtonpos...story.html
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Posted by Rob Shipley (+481) 5 years ago
All of Miles City Good and Great People: I have read this entire thread, every word, people as intelligent as each of you DESERVE the absolute truth.
1. We the People have a ***HUGE*** say in Interstate Commerce. It will (forever) be hard to get heard, but, none the less, FEDERAL LAW that pertains to ***railroad only easements*** mandates RRs can only do three(3) and three (3) things only:
1. build grade and lay track 2. build depots and maintenance of way buildings, and 3. ONLY OPERATE TRAINS. They can do nothing else and since railroad only easements are gained only from the U.S. Congress, no railroad can alter nor modify any railroad only easement for any satisfaction of their own, whether fiscal, huge, or petty.Therefore, since SPEED KILLS, as is known and accepted all over the civilized world,We the People can and must petition Congress as per Ms Dunphey's solid advice and there we can gain traction and resolve to get BNSF to slow down here.****BNSF does not own all the land where are their tracks. They were *given* and *gifted* only the odd numbered sections in every Railroad Land Grant Act township. The other ones, the *even numbered* sections do still and forever belong to U.S. Government and are in usage ONLY because of railroad only easements. The 10th Street fiasco of 10 years ago was serious enough, we all agree; but had BNSF then been able to FLY at 60mph.......cars departing the rails loaded with 100 tons of coal could have amassed millions upon millions of foot pounds of torque and kinetic energy that possibly, seemingly not probably, but, possibly....could have laid bare the 1921 Custer County High School.

Thank you. "Ship"
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Posted by Mary Catherine Dunphy (+2906) 5 years ago
On Saturday, November 7, 2015, a BNSF train derailed in western Wisconsin spilling ethanol into the Mississippi River. Apparently 25 rail cars derailed. Fortunately, there were no reports of fire, smoke or injuries. However, up to 150 people left their homes during an evacuation of the area, according to Chief Sheriff's Deputy Colin Severson.

Here's the link:

http://www.chicagotribune...story.html
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supporter
Posted by Gunnar Emilsson (+17223) 5 years ago
Keep posting these reports of train spills. President Obama was so incredibly wrong in his denial of Keystone XL.
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Posted by Exalted Buckaroo (+247) 5 years ago
Because climate change is a hoax, the cost/benefit analysis of the Keystone XL is so favorable, and this thread is not about fast trains.
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Posted by Mary Catherine Dunphy (+2906) 5 years ago
The following link is a rather sobering, yet apparently incomplete, list of oil spills throughout the world since 1907. It includes oil spilled at refineries, by pipelines and rail.

https://en.wikipedia.org/...oil_spills
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Posted by Mary Catherine Dunphy (+2906) 5 years ago
After the recent train derailments in Wisconsin, lawmakers there are introducing new rail safety legislation based on a recently passed (2014) law in Minnesota.

http://host.madison.com/n...708df.html


These are informative links about the new law in Minnesota:

http://mn.gov/governor/ne...102-134725

https://dps.mn.gov/divisi...-sheet.pdf
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Posted by Mary Catherine Dunphy (+2906) 5 years ago
This article "A Warning on the State of Rail Bridges" by Ashley Halsey III was originally published on November 10, 2015. It seems the railroads are doing a poor job of maintaining railroad bridges.

https://www.washingtonpos...story.html
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Posted by Mary Catherine Dunphy (+2906) 5 years ago
This article, "Feds Tell Railroads They Must Meet Deadlines for Life-
Saving Technology" is from the November 24, 2015 edition of the Washington Post. It seems the new administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, Sarah Feinberg, has a tough minded approach to dealing with the railroads and their implementation of positive train control.

https://www.washingtonpos...story.html

I wonder how she feels about BNSF's new "safety first" 60 mph speed through Miles City, Montana. Here's her address in case you (or the new Mayor)want to write to her and find out:

Ms. Sarah Feinberg
Administrator
Federal Railroad Administration
Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, D.C. 20590
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supporter
Posted by Jeri Dalbec (+3209) 5 years ago
Thank you, Mary Catherine Dunphy. Seems like a letter to this lady would be the "least" that we can do for Miles City and its people.
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Posted by Mary Catherine Dunphy (+2906) 5 years ago
"In 2014, Montana counted a total of 31 train accidents, not including incidents at highway railroad crossings. These accidents tallied damages of more than $10 million."

These facts are from a recent editorial published in the Missoulian. Those interested in trains safety issues in Montana will find it informative.

http://missoulian.com/new...3d5da.html
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Posted by Mary Catherine Dunphy (+2906) 5 years ago
There was a BNSF train collision today, June 28, 2016 in Panhandle, Texas. I still think BNSF's decision last year, increasing train speeds through Miles City to 60 mph, displays a callous disregard for potential catastrophe, especially when BNSF trains are transporting hazardous materials. And, after attending meetings about this issue, I know Miles City's emergency responders do not have the resources to handle an accident of this magnitude.

http://www.nbcnews.com/ne...-1-n600426
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