Entries Tagged 'Railroads' ↓

The train traffic and noise DTSF needs to go

After the presentation of the new development downtown I addressed the council at the informational meeting (at end of meeting). I basically told them as long as the train noise and increased traffic exists it will be detrimental to further development downtown. I also said it was time for our Washington delegation to get off their duffs and have a conversation with BNSF about moving the switching and storage of cars out of DTSF.

Billion’s to have first RR redevelopment project

Image: siouxfalls.business

The announcement was just made minutes ago;

The first project to redevelop part of the downtown rail yard is envisioned as a mix of commercial and residential that would enhance the area around 8th & Railroad Center.

The development will be owned by Black Iron Railyard, LLC, which is led by David and Erika Billion.

Erika and Dave had told me over a year ago they were going to submit to the RFP and were greatly interested in the property behind the 8th and RR center that they currently own. I am actually glad to see they were awarded(?) the RFP, and for once it wasn’t the same old group of developers.

Obviously, the City Council will still have to approve the project, but like I mentioned last week, the ball is already rolling.

It will be interesting to hear if there will be any controversy over this project. The only thing I would be concerned about is building residential less than 100 feet from an active train track. There has been a promise this area will become ‘whistle free’, something that should have been negotiated to begin with. We will have to wait and see how the turd polishing goes.

Railroad Redevelopment Project Secrecy plays out like the old administration

Funny how some things don’t change in community development even with Jeff and Mutt gone.

There is a big announcement on Monday about the first project in the RR Redevelopment area, and mums the word. (Rumor has it that members of the Billion family who own the adjacent 8th and RR building won the RFP. Not sure if this is true, it could be a myriad of developers, but I do know they were very interested in the property). But like the former administration, the council was left out of the negotiations. In other words, they have NO idea who was picked, or why they were picked, but need to vote to approve the selection.

Apparently we haven’t learned much about the RFP process and how secrecy hurts that process.

I also find the timing of this announcement interesting after hearing TenHaken’s COS, Beck, talk in the news about better ‘educating’ the public about the value of TIFs. Sorry, Erica, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. It has been proven time and time again, all a TIF really is, is a tax rebate for the developer building the project, and by the time the TIF matures, that developer has sold the property and moved on, while getting a massive discount.

Are the Railroads blowing smoke?

So I got this email forwarded to me by a city councilor yesterday, I’m not sure who sent them this (SF public works or BNSF) but I found it a bit humorous, to say the least;

We evaluated the potential changes to railroad operations as part of the Environmental Assessment (EA) for the project.  There is a BNSF Sioux Falls Operations Plan that is in the appendix of the EA.  It was anticipated that an extra 2 to 5 rail cars per month would need to utilize this area for parking and storage due to the track removal in the downtown yard.

If there is additional train traffic above this estimated amount, it is likely due to a higher customer demand, not because of the Rail Yard Redevelopment project.  For instance, Egger Steel is one of the businesses served by the track in this neighborhood and may be receiving or shipping additional steel due to market needs.

It’s no secret, Former Mayor Bucktooh & Bowlcut used to tell some pretty tall tales, but, after reading this, it is no surprise to me that the two (BNSF) negotiated the worst agreement in the history of our city.

First off, I don’t think I have ever thought the RR Redevelopment project has been causing the extra cars to be parked in the area, my point is that we should have negotiated that NO cars can be parked in the area. We gave BNSF millions to build a new switchyard out of downtown, why don’t they use it?

As for the 2 to 5 cars, LMFAO! If you go by the Nelson Park skate park or just North of Avera you will see between 40-60 cars parked in those area’s over the weekend and throughout the week. Are some of them steel cars? A few, I guess, but most are grain, lumber and biofuel cars.

I fully understand that we will still have to have rail traffic through downtown due to the suppliers, but I question why we need to park and switch these cars in this area? Seems the Railroads are blowing a lot of smoke.

Doon, IA train derailment cause not determined yet

I think we have some pretty good guesses though;

“The cause of the accident hasn’t been determined yet. It’s easy to assume that it was flood-related and that may be very well what caused it, but we’re not going to make an assumption at this point,” Williams said.

I find it interesting that the FEDS haven’t said the cause yet. Where are our investigative reporters when you need them? The stories coming from Doon shortly after the derailment was that the train decided to cross the tracks that were covered with water. Why?

I would think that protocol would say NOT to do such a thing, or at least send a test vehicle across the water covered tracks first to look for damage. With the massive cleanup effort I suspect that BNSF knows exactly what happened and are trying to ‘cleanup’ or at least ‘coverup’ the mistake. The public deserves an answer ASAP, but will we ever hear it?

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?