Senate committee tours route of railroad wye
WILLMAR — Members of the Minnesota Senate Capital Investment Committee toured the route Thursday morning of the proposed railroad wye project west of Willmar. The committee, on a three-day tour of state-funded projects in southwest Minnesota, stayed overnight in Willmar and then boarded a bus at 7:45 a.m. Thursday for a drive along the wye route near Kandiyohi County Road 55. The legislators then headed for Litchfield. Bruce Peterson, Willmar planning and development director, participated in the tour. He said the committee was interested in the project and anything that is tied to Minnesota Department of Transportation funding. This was the committee’s fourth regional tour of state-funded projects. Committee Chairman Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, said the tours can be grueling days and very long hours, but it’s vital that members of the committee understand the project needs. “Frequently, you can’t really understand some of these communities’ needs until you see them in person. There is a huge demand for basic infrastructure across the state, so it can be a little daunting. But learning as much as possible before we put this bill together is critical to investing taxpayers’ money wisely.’’ During the last session, the Legislature approved $3.77 million in the bonding bill for the $48.8 million collaborative railroad wye project. Other funding includes a $10 million U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant, $16 million from Burlington Northern Santa Fe, $15 million from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and about $830,000 from the city of Willmar, Kandiyohi County and the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission. The TIGER grant was $5 million less than the city had requested, but the $3.7 million in bonding money leaves a shortfall of about $1.3 million, which local officials hope to identify. The wye will involve construction of nearly 10,000 feet of track between two Burlington Northern Santa Fe main lines on the west side of town. Officials say the wye will allow seven to 10 trains to bypass Willmar’s downtown railyard every day or about 3,000 every year. Officials say the wye will improve safety and reduce noise and traffic congestion from trains blocking roads. It will also provide a new commercial connection in the industrial park that will get commerce where it needs to go quicker and more efficiently.