Category Archives: General

Update on Proposed Rail Connection

Today the city posted a new information packet about the proposed rail project that I wrote about a few days ago.

The packet is a summary of what we currently know about the project.  Not too many of the details have changed since last time- this update basically confirms much of what was rumored, though some new detail is provided about the permitting process that the railroads will need to go through in order to make this connection.

Since the last update a number of meetings have happened:

  • Crystal city staff has had a face-to-face meeting with representatives from Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF)  to gain clarification about details surrounding the project.
  • Our staff also held a meeting with our legislative delegation (Reps Carlson and Frieberg & Senator Rest) some legislators from Minneapolis, a member of the Minneapolis Park Board, representatives from Robbinsdale and Golden Valley, and a senior transportation policy advisor to Governor Dayton to discuss a coordinated approach to responding to this project.
  • Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat had a discussion with Senator Klobuchaur’s office to try to engage our federal officials on the matter.

This project should require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) before it can proceed, but there is a concern that BNSF may be trying to circumvent or evade this process.  Crystal city staff will be following up directly with the Surface Transportation Board (STB), which is the federal agency that regulates this type of rail activity to try to ensure an EIS is required.

If an EIS is found to be required, there will be a public comment period, which will be the chance for Crystal residents to formally provide feedback about this project.

There is a good chance the Crystal Council will be discussing a resolution opposing this project at the next council meeting on February 17.  While this type of resolution would not give us the authority to stop the project, resolutions like this can be used as a tool to clearly state the city’s formal position on a topic.

Finally, I have received a few question regarding “quiet zones.”  When a quiet zone is implemented that means trains passing through the area would not use their horns.  We are looking into what it would take to implement quiet zones in Crystal as part of the overall discussion regarding freight rail.  I don’t have any more details on that yet, but I have requested information from our staff, and requested that quiet zones are discussed in any meetings about this project.

As always, I will post more once I know more, and will do my best to answer questions where I can.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.


Potential Rail Project in Crystal

As I mentioned in my last recap, during the city council work session last week the city staff alerted the council to a new rail project that has the potential to significantly affect Crystal.

Canadian Pacific (CP) and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) are proposing to link their tracks which currently cross at about West Broadway and 52nd Avenue.

Location of proposed rail connector

This would allow trains moving east/west on the CP line to turn and go north/south on the BNSF line.  With this change we would see an increase of rail traffic through Crystal.  It is expected that both the frequency of trains and the length of the trains going through would increase significantly.

Some of the trains would be Bakken oil trains which can be 100 cars (or 4,000 feet- almost a mile) long.

One major concern is that a single 4,000 foot long heavy freight diverted from the CP to the BNSF would simultaneously close all four of the Crystal crossings – Douglas Dr (CP), West Broadway (CP), Corvallis (BNSF) and West Broadway (BNSF).

This would have an impact on our emergency services vehicles, basically cutting off the northern part of the city from the southern part of the city.

Of additional concern is the great latitude that railroads are given under long standing laws, as council member Olga Parsons explained in her recent meeting recap:

So, how can the train companies plan such a project without appealing to the local community for input and approval?  How can they entirely exclude our city council and staff?  The Federal Surface Transportation Board and the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration regulate the railroad industry.  Railroad companies are afforded many liberties, which include the ability to unilaterally carry out projects without any meaningful input from the local community.

The railroads have eminent domain authority, and this project would require the acquisition of at least three private businesses by the railroads.  Our city staff was only alerted to this proposed project because one of the private business owners contacted the city with some questions.

When this project was brought to our city staff’s attention late last year, they immediately brought it to the attention of MnDOT staff.  Since then, MnDOT staff met with the railroads but has been indifferent to the city’s concerns.

This morning council members from Crystal and some surrounding communities met with our legislative delegation to get an update on what’s going on in the legislature.  At this meeting Senator Ann Rest shared that she had a meeting with MnDOT this week about this project, and that MnDOT had noted that there is little they can do because railroads are regulated federally.

Details on where we go from here are unclear, but here’s what we do know now- the railroads will be required to complete an environmental impact statement as part of this proposal.  This process will include an opportunity for public input.  It’s important that residents of Crystal participate in this process.  I will post more information about the process as soon as I get it.

At our legislative meeting this morning we also discussed that if this project were to go forward we would need to address some of the railroad crossings in Crystal to ensure access to half the city is not cut off.  Our entire legislative delegation (Senator Rest and Reps Freiberg and Carlson) committed to working with us to attempt to secure funding to implement what’s called “grade separation” on some of our crossings.  That means either the road or train tracks would become elevated so traffic was not stopped by the trains.

This project could also have an impact on the proposed Blue Line or Bottineau light rail, though the impact is unclear at this point.

At this point I think it’s safe to say there are more things we don’t know than we do know, but I thought it was important to put this out there so people could be aware of what is going on.  There was discussion today about holding a community meeting with representatives from MnDOT to answer questions, but nothing is on the calendar quite yet.

I will post information as soon as I can, and if you have any questions, please let me know.

Update:  In response to a question on Nextdoor, here is an image of what the new route would look like if the connector was built.  Trains traveling east on the CP line (which runs east-west) could turn south on the BNSF line (which runs north-south).  Click the image to see full size.

The Oath of Office

The first order of business at the council meeting last night was to swear in the new council members.

The oath of office is required under the Minnesota Constitution (Article 5, Section 6) and the form that the oath takes is prescribed by MN Statute (Chapter 358).

The text of the oath as I took it last night is as follows:

Please raise your right hand and repeat after me:

I, _state your name_________, solemnly swear to support the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Minnesota, and to discharge faithfully the duties of the office of councilmember of  the city of Crystal, Minnesota, to the best of my  ability, so help me God.

I only kind of flubbed one line- not too bad for my first time, I guess.  :)

Hi and Welcome

Hi!  I’m Jeff Kolb and I am the new councilmember representing Ward 2 in the city of Crystal Minnesota.

I will be using this site to keep the residents of Ward 2 informed about what’s going on in Crystal.

If I can answer any questions for you, please let me know.  My phone number is 612-314-5652 and my email address is  I am also on Facebook and

I am excited to get sworn in on Tuesday January 6 so I can get to work!