Entries Tagged 'Railroads' ↓

We should have negotiated RR quiet zones Downtown

Rapid City is showing they have a lot more vision than Sioux Falls by proposing quiet zones Downtown;

The city’s railroad quiet zone task force will meet next week to discuss funding for the project. A final report is expected within the next two months.

City officials will need to file a notice of intent with the Federal Railroad Administration and railroad companies once a quiet zone option is approved.

Harrington said Rapid City would be the first town or city in the state to implement a railroad quiet zone policy should it move forward.

As I have stated numerous times, the RR Redevelopment Project in DTSF was one of the worst negotiated projects in the history of the city. Besides the fact that we probably bought land from the RR that we probably already owned (Federal easements) we did nothing to limit train traffic DT or at least limit the noise. Of the millions we handed over to the RR for basically $62 a square foot dirty land, we didn’t have the vision to set aside some money to create quiet zones downtown. This SHOULD have been a part of the deal.


I was surprised to see the problems are still around;

Neitzert said he may wait to see if the ICON has any issues throughout the summer and in the meantime, slow the tempo on composing a new ordinance, but still thinks downtown maybe eventually need to change its key.

“It does seem like downtown needs something different, because the noise ordinance is written really well for other areas that aren’t mixed use, neighborhoods that are all residential,” Neitzert said. “But again the question is, what is the something?”

Ironically its airplanes, trains and first responders that cause the most noise, the decibel level does need to change downtown, funny how this stuff gets killed without little explanation. Kind of like moving public input without an informal public meeting about it. I had the opportunity to go inside one of the bigger condos in the building. While this one did not have a west side patio, it did have several west side windows. I was there for about an hour and the only sound I could hear from outside was a faint police car siren that was driving past the coliseum, but it was so faint you would not even notice it. I’m thinking having the patios on the west side are what may be causing some of the noise issues. My suggestion? Close you patio door.

Train Tankers Continue to be stored in DTSF

I counted 14 tankers today labeled as ‘Bio Engery’ (probably ethanol) parked only 100 feet from a kid’s skateboard park and a couple hundred feet from the river and a busy street. I did tap on one and it seemed empty.

The label ‘1987 – 3’ means flammable alcohol.

This label by Chemtrec appeared on several of the tankers, according to their website;

Established in 1971 as a public service of the American Chemistry Council (ACC), CHEMTREC is an around-the-clock service available to fire fighters, law enforcement officials and other emergency responders who need immediate critical response information for emergency incidents involving chemicals, hazardous materials and dangerous goods. CHEMTREC’s highly trained personnel receive hundreds of calls every day and provide assistance during incidents that range from minor to critical.

I’ll end with some graffiti I found on one of the tankers. I think it says it all.

Who is regulating the ‘Train Takeover’ of Sioux Falls?

A Foot Soldier sent me several pictures today, saying this; “100 + tankers parked on the tracks parallel to Minnesota avenue out to the airport. They stretch from behind water treatment plant all the way North of Benson Road. Been there since Friday.”

Last week I think on Tuesday or Wednesday (hard to keep track anymore) the trains were rolling through downtown and blowing whistles for at least 10-12 hours straight. Not only does this block traffic, the decibel levels are out of control (over 110 decibels).

I’m still wondering why the trains are not switching and storing cars at their new switch yard? What kind of deal did Former Mayor Bogus Events Center Settlement cut with the railroads? Apparently a very crappy one.

I think it is time to put pressure on our Washington delegation to put the hammer down. Oh wait, I forgot who I was talking about. Nevermind.

Oh, BTW, 9:10 PM on a Sunday Night, guess what I’m listening to right now? A train whistle.

Are we ready for the next big disaster in Sioux Falls?

(Video and Commentary by Cameraman Bruce Danielson)

To let you know I’m not a full time cynic or complainer. 30 years ago I traveled the United States developing disaster recovery programs and systems for major corporations and governments. I ask many questions from this spot because I see issues stemming secrecy and lack of transparency coming from poor planning processes. Some of the projects I developed solutions for allowed major banking institutions to survive and operate during the 1989 and 1994 California earthquakes and more.

I sent all of you a Press Release last week asking three basic questions:
1. Is Sioux Falls ready to handle a major catastrophic event?
2. Have we done preparedness drills?
3. Do we have mutual aid agreements in place with surrounding communities for fire, police and ambulance services?

So far our review says we don’t have a yes to any of these questions. It’s time for the citizens to ask the town to make major leadership changes in this election before it’s too late.

Last Monday as I left downtown, I stopped to assess the train derailment under the 11th Street viaduct. What I saw shocked me and should cause everyone in Sioux Falls to consider the ramifications and lack of benefit we get from our mayor’s $27 million rail relocation project.

The events this week should shock and scare us to the point of action.

The train derailment missed becoming a mass casualty incident by a razor thin margin.

Fortunately, these rail cars contained grain.

However, other hazardous substances able to quickly gas or burn downtown Sioux Falls are regularly transported on the same route through our downtown.

The derailment of a car containing more hazardous substances like ammonia fertilizer could destroy or paralyze several square miles of Sioux Falls very quickly.

Potentially thousands of people would have had to be evacuated if they had not been killed.

I took the accompanying photos during the early and post derailment clean-up process. Photos show four rail cars on their sides with grain spilling out. Workers were already cleaning up the grain.

The photos also show how the railcars slid within a foot or so of taking out a pillar holding the bridge up. It was very likely the viaduct would have collapsed.

The 4 fully loaded railcars weighed about 1,000,000 pounds, that’s 1 million pounds of kinetic energy pushing into the ground, possibly moving the pillar’s foundation.

What would happen not if, but when, several million pounds of rail cars land differently next time?

As it is, have the footing been inspected by a reputable state highway inspector?

Once the pillar support can be inspected, the viaduct may yet be closed. Get answer to the question: Did the sliding rail car disturb the bridge foundation?

At several city meetings we ask to see City disaster recovery plans for disasters.

My requests for disaster plans seemed to be reasonable given how many full time disaster recovery planners are paid high City salaries.

Regardless, in answer to my requests for the plans, only blank stares or claims of computer simulation games are given. Now we’re back to when will Sioux Falls and Minnehaha County get real mutual aid ambulance agreements? We never receive a straight story from this administration; will we get one from the next?

Secret agreements, deals and no transparency is all we find as we get when we dig into Sioux Falls city government. The released SDPAA training exercise project being portrayed by our administration as a real report shows how little our current government cares for the real health and safety of the public.

We got very, very lucky this time. What will happen when the next derailment or tornado happens?

No doubt the people who were paid to plan for these events will blame it on everyone else and claim it was the fault of the administration who happens to be in office at the time of the disaster.

Why is it always an act of God?

Where is this discussion in the current campaign?

Why does someone have to die for action to happen? Heck someone did die in the Copper Lounge collapse, and the city hires them to do a public/private partnership with them. I guess the city’s policy is to reward the entities that abuse the public.

We dodged a major public safety bullet – Bruce Danielson

I took some photos on Monday evening under the 11th Street viaduct. What I saw shocked me and should cause everyone in Sioux Falls to consider the consequences of our mayor’s rail relocation project. What if this rail car was a hazardous chemical, crude oil, ethanol instead of grain? What would have happened to the core of Sioux Falls? Downtown could have been eliminated. Potentially thousands of people would have had to be evacuated if they had not been killed.

The photo was taken by me during the early clean-up process. It shows one of the rail cars close to causing the viaduct to collapse. The four cars are on their sides with grain spilling out and the workers are sucking the grain up.

Had the train car been 1 foot from where it landed on its side, the viaduct would have been on the ground. The bridge support you see in the photo would have been knocked out causing the bridge to fall or to be damaged so much the viaduct would have to be closed.

The lies of the Huether administration are resting on shaky pilings. The next seemingly insignificant derailment could have caused the mass evacuation of large areas of Sioux Falls. Depending on the chemical spilled the radius can be anywhere from 3/4 of a mile to several miles.

I have asked in several city meetings, what is the town’s disaster recovery plan for any major events and I get only blank stares or claims of computer simulations. We don’t even have mutual aid ambulance agreements in place yet. This event proves how disgustingly bad the Huether administration has been in protecting our safety and the aftermath of real disasters. Remember the sewer pipe collapse and raw sewage being dumped down residential streets and into the river? It appears their only answer has been and will always be if Mike can’t put a fun face on it, it didn’t happen so don’t worry about it.

When that next derailment happens, where will miracle Mike be when this happens (because you know it will)? He will blame it on everyone else and claim it was the fault of the mayor who happens to be in office at the time.

DaCola’s NOTE: I’ve been a bit surprised over the last few days about how apathetic people and the media have been about this derailment. Most just shrug their shoulders and say, “Well a disaster didn’t happen, so what’s the big deal?” The ‘Big Deal’ is what if? What if it was a combination of all the bad elements? A chemical spill, a fire and a viaduct collapse all at once? What would our emergency efforts be then? These are the questions our city council and media need to be asking. Would we be prepared to clean up such a mess, would we have enough first responders and ambulances? Or would we have to depend on Lyft?

The Railroad Cleanup Team

Took this picture today of the cleanup project.

UPDATE: This is why train traffic downtown needs to go away

Okay, I know, it was just a big birdfeeder, but . . .

Cleanup operations are underway following a grain spill along train tracks in downtown Sioux Falls.

At least four cars carrying grain tipped near the viaduct just east of downtown

What if this would have been a petroleum product? What if it would have happened while crossing 8th street or Cliff Avenue and fell on a car?

This is why when we gave Warren Buffet $27 million dollars to build a new switchyard out of town we expected train traffic DT to lessen, it has actually gotten worse and switching is still going on South of the RR Redevelopment project.

I still believe this was the WORST negotiated deal in the HISTORY of the city. We got a patchwork of dirty land for $62 a square foot, and little else. This is why deals this big need to be negotiated in the OPEN. Thanks Mike for your leadership on this deal! If you want to charter another plane at taxpayer expense, may I suggest a one-way flight to Mexico on May 16th. Money well spent.

UPDATE: Some are wondering how close this de-railment was to the pylons of the viaduct and what kind of safety issues this has posed.

UPDATE II: Secret, Secret, Secret, RAMROD!

UPDATE II: Bravo to Warren Phear for digging up this Argus Leader story from a year ago. Apparently they released the names of the interested parties back than.

So what really was the administration trying to keep from us? But what is even more ironic is that the AL had this information for almost a year and apparently didn’t check the archives 🙂

Asking why Huether is a closed government advocate is like asking why the sky is blue. We know the answer to the question, yet we still struggle with why it has to be that way;

Sioux Falls officials are refusing to provide the identities of developers in the running for the first phase of the rail yard redevelopment project downtown.

I’m getting to the point, that I don’t even want to talk about it anymore. It is what it is. Lies, schemes, scams, boondoggles, etc. etc.

I will bet you though that Legacy Development is on that list, and that is why Heather and the city are pulling excuses from their rear ends.

Isn’t it ironic that while Huether is setting up his ‘legacy’ he keeps promoting ‘Legacy’.

UPDATE: Shocker! Legacy is one of the developers!

Of the six development firms who responded to the city’s request for qualifications for the rail yard redevelopment project, four are local to Sioux Falls: Lloyd Companies, Legacy Developments, Eighth and Railroad Center and Pender Cherapa. The other two submitters were Inland Development Partners of St. Louis Park, Minnesota, and Philadelphia-based development firm Smart Visions.

The funny part is that I have known for years Eighth and Railroad Center has been interested in developing this property since they border it. It’s not like Lloyd being interested in the property is some big secret either. Huether keeping the developers ‘secret’ is like saying he also knows Santa Claus isn’t real either, but isn’t going to tell anyone.

Railroad still storing cars downtown even after closure of old switchyard

I thought one of the reasons we gave Warren Buffet $27 million was to build a new switchyard and storage outside of town, but that hasn’t stopped the RR from storing cars in downtown. I took these pictures of more than 30 cars (including petroleum) around 13th and Cliff and more cars going North and South over the bike trail bridge.

We have spent $27 Million of Federal taxpayers money to move train storage and switching out of downtown, but it hasn’t happened. The RR redevelopment was negotiated very poorly, just like the downtown parking ramp. The taxpayers got stiffed.


Reducing Rail Traffic was part of Munson’s 2005 RR redevelopment plan

There seems to be some detractors when it comes to what I have been saying about reducing the rail traffic downtown after we took possession of the RR redevelopment land. I will apologize on one level where I was wrong. First off, I was unaware that two tracks would remain under Munson’s plan and secondly that this was mostly about the redevelopment. Those two items did not change under Huether’s plan. But Munson did want the rail traffic to reduce, substantially under his 2005 plan;

Sioux Falls Mayor David Munson says, “For any development we want to do moving those tracks is very important.”

Plus, the mayor says moving the tracks is an issue of safety. Traffic wouldn’t be backed up nearly as much anymore. And if a train were to derail while carrying hazardous material, it wouldn’t happen in the center of a growing city.

Munson says, “We’ve seen recently trains that have leaked, they’ve had to evacuate areas so we’re trying to stay ahead of that here.”

Ironically, these hazardous train cars are still parked several days a week next to Nelson Park only hundreds of feet from the Sioux River on the South and a kid’s skate park and swimming pool to the North.

In fact the RR has stated that rail traffic would NOT be reduced under Huether’s plan. They have stated that the trains will become shorter BUT more frequent. They were not kidding. As I have noted they have become a lot more frequent over Cliff Avenue next to Avera Hospital during noon and rush hour times. One of the factors that I can see is instead of using the old switch yard that is gone now, they are re-hooking and switching train cars in the area just North of Avera’s employee/overflow parking lot. They are also parking a lot more train cars in that area.

Also, under Munson’s 2005 plan, Mark Cotter felt that rail traffic and switching would reduce so much they could eventually tear down the 10th street viaduct;

But getting the switching yard moved could dramatically reduce the size of the 10th Street viaduct in years to come. “Twenty-five years down the road, when the viaduct needs to be reconstructed, we can bring in dirt,” Cotter says, because the viaduct no longer would have to span an entire switching yard. “Roads are cheaper to repair than bridges,” Cotter says.

I wonder if that is still the plan to tear down the viaducts in 2030?

As you can see, the original vision did include the redevelopment of the banana land and leaving two RR tracks, BUT it also envisioned reducing rail traffic significantly throughout downtown which apparently was left out of Huether’s plan.