BNSF Steps Up Investment: $810 Million To Get Minnesota’s Products to World Markets

I keep an eye on what railroads are doing because of the Center’s effort to stop boondoggles like Southwest and Bottineau LRT, two projects that the Met Council claims will boost the economy.

In reality, LRT does not boost development, not the way the Council spins it. Randall O’Toole and other transit experts have shown that LRT development often just moves development—and to the extent any of it is “new,” it is often subsidized (e.g. affordable housing or special taxing districts to incentivize commercial development along the rail). And in Minnesota, the Met Council’s LRT transit has increased the cost of housing while creating frustrating congestion that certainly hurts economic growth, costs Minnesotans big bucks sitting in traffic and creates pollution while cars and trucks idle.

Texas-based BNSF is investing in Minnesota. (I know more about transit than freight but know enough to wonder if any part of the BNSF rail improvement is subsidized by the feds. Most regulated industries, especially rail, are in bed with the fed. If you know, shoot me a note.)

According to the Strib:

BNSF Railway Co. said Friday it will invest about $90 million this year to maintain its freight rail network in Minnesota.

The biggest part of the Texas-based company’s capital plan in the state involves replacing and upgrading rail, rail ties and ballast, the main components for its railroad tracks.

BNSF says it has invested about $810 million over the past five years to expand and maintain its network in Minnesota.

BNSF told the Met Council that if the Council wants to co-locate vulnerable passenger LRT next to its freight lines, it will have to build a crash wall (10 feet high, 3 feet thick) that runs for more than a mile as the SWLRT would enter Minneapolis. One look at the photo of a freight and passenger collision below says it all.

BNSF also rejected plans by the Met Council to co-locate about 8 miles of the Bottineau LRT along freight; the railroad says it is not safe, and that co-location would interfere with freight expansion. BNSF says that it told the Council as long as three years ago that it would not co-locate with LRT yet the Council has not changed the LRT route or dropped the plan; it just keeps saying it will get a deal eventually.


“As a part of the Great Northern Corridor, Minnesota serves as a crucial link between the Pacific Northwest and Chicago, ensuring that every year BNSF moves more than 140,000 carloads of Minnesota corn, wheat, soybeans and other agricultural products, as well as large quantities of timber and paper products to both global and domestic markets,” said Chad Sundem, BNSF’s general manager of operations for its Twin Cities Division, in a statement.

Now that is real economic investment that will boost Minnesota’s economy.