The city of Benson cannot issue tickets to trains that sometimes block three major intersections for lengthy periods of time.
The West Central Tribune reports District Judge Donald Spilseth dismissed seven citations that Benson police had issued to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company for allegedly violating a state statute by blocking the 12th, 13th, and 14th Street crossings in the downtown for more than 10 minutes on dates in January, March and April of this year.
In an order filed earlier this month, the judge found that federal law pre-empts the state statute.
The city of Benson has reviewed the order and does not plan to appeal it, according to City Attorney Ben Wilcox.
BNSF has made changes in Benson aimed at reducing the length of time that intersections are blocked, according to Amy McBeth of BNSF.
In response to the court order, McBeth stated that “BNSF works with communities where possible to minimize the impact of our operations at the same time we’re investing record capital to move Minnesota’s and all of our customers’ commodities more efficiently along our Northern Corridor.
The blocked intersections are a source of much frustration for motorists, and a safety concern for city officials. The blocked trains slice the city into north and south segments. In findings accompanying his order, Judge Spilseth noted that the Swift County Sheriff’s Office, Northside Elementary School, and Benson High School are located north of the rail line. The Swift County Benson Hospital, the Benson Police Department, and the Benson Fire Department are located south of the line.