Follow up on my Buses and Railroad Crossings post from August 11, 2014. At some point recently an “Exempt” sign was added, so buses need no longer stop here (the railroad crossing on Franklin Avenue adjacent to I-94). The line has been essentially unused since Bemis closed stopped getting shipments. The site is now being reconfigured as Brickhouse Lofts.
In short, streets.mn gets results.
Now let’s make it a useful trail.
Aaron Isaacs writes:
The Exempt sign was posted after the last shipper up near Delaware Street stopped receiving rail cars. Metro Transit requested the sign. The sign means there are no longer regular train movements. However, the railroad is still in service and still uses the crossing occasionally to switch the yard south of Franklin. Those freight cars may be stored out of service, but they generate rental revenue for the railroad. Rail car storage comes and goes with the traffic demands of the rail system, and the railroad receives income for storing them. Unless someone wants to buy the land from the railroad, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Good idea with the Exempt sign and I wish you luck with the trail. I hope the wheels are already in motion. Here in SW Florida, we have a rail that looks similar to yours. Hard to get folks to see the vision of a path regardless of how many other towns have been successful, but we are not giving up.
Good luck getting the RR to give up the land. Isn’t there some ridiculous federal process for officially decommissioning rail lines too, even if they haven’t actually be active or used in quite some time?
There is a process with the Federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) for railroads to officially request abandoning rail lines., but it’s not as ridiculous as one might think, especially if it’s an unused line that lacks customers. The ridiculousness happens when railroads try to abandon lines that are still in use, and businesses along the line fight the abandonment.
I would think that, in this case, it would be fairly smooth sailing for Minnesota Commercial Railroad (the line owner) to abandon it if desired.
As a train nerd, that’s a bummer; I missed the memo on the business on that line going away, and it had been on my list of things to photograph for quite a while, dang.
Additional trivia: that’s one of only a handful of remaining crossing devices made here in the Twin Cities by the Griswold Signal Company, which had a distinctive design where a stop sign would rotate 90″ to face automobile traffic when activated by a train.
Do railroads pay taxes on their land?
Do they to the county? I know RRs pay property taxes across the country in general, but the land along tracks and yards almost always has $0 for total tax owed to Hennepin County.
Is there any potential transit use for this ROW?
Looking at the map, you could maybe have something come from the Midtown Greenway, cross the river, and follow these tracks north to connect to the Green line, but you’d have to do some work to get from the end of the tracks currently to the Green line. You could maybe run to Huron, run up Huron, and connect to the Green Line tracks at Stadium Village?
I swear I’m not suggesting that because it would mean a one seat ride from my house to my office.
I’ve certainly seen that route proposed on fantasy maps before. Levinson proposed it as part of a Minneapolis Circle Line here.
There’s also the option of continuing east along the Short Line tracks and potentially linking up with the proposed Grand Ave streetcar tracks if you could hop out of the Ayd Mill trench easily enough. That would be a single seat ride from Uptown to downtown StP with a whole lot of grade separation along the way.
A MUP (Multi-Use Path) along this rail ROW would be a nice-to-have, but I don’t see it as a priority, nor would it be particularly useful. Assuming that the railroad would want to keep the triple-track just southeast of Franklin Ave for railcar storage space, you could only realistically run a MUP from Essex St near the Brickhouse Lofts down to Franklin Ave. Even if the whole spur was abandoned, you could only extend a MUP down to East River Pkwy next to the Shriners Hospital.
Anything beyond that would require approval from the railroad to allow a MUP in their rail ROW. We know that trails and rail can share, but the railroad cannot legally be forced to accept it.
But if the railroads (both Minnesota Commercial and Canadian Pacific) are willing to share, you could reasonably get a MUP down to Prior Ave at I-94.
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