NORTHSTAR DELAYS: Metro Transit, BNSF play blame game - KMSP-TV

NORTHSTAR DELAYS: Metro Transit, BNSF play blame game

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Delays along the Northstar Commuter Rail line have been so bad this winter that legislators demanded a State Capitol hearing to tackle the problems, or at least get a better explanation.

The tipping point was Monday, Feb. 24, when delays swelled to as much as two hours between Big Lake and Target Field in downtown Minneapolis.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

BNSF vice president Brian Sweeney told legislators Thursday that cold weather is to blame for Northstar's on-time schedule dropping to 88 percent.

Sweeney said the METRA commuter rail system in Chicago has seen an almost identical drop in on-time performance this winter. Sweeney said the super-cold weather has caused switches to freeze in addition to ice buildups on the rails and it makes it harder to maintain proper brake pressure.

Metro Transit general manager Brian Lamb disputes the claims from BNSF, saying Northstar's on-time performance has been more like 75 percent.

The discrepancy in on-time train arrivals comes in the fact that Metro Transit and BNSF have different criteria for measuring those arrivals. Metro Transit considers a train on-time if it arrives within five minutes of its scheduled arrival. BNSF's contract to provide rail space for Northstar calculates on-time performance in a different way, but Sweeney couldn't recall to lawmakers what that contract provision is.

Lamb said everything that could go wrong has gone wrong for Northstar this winter, forcing Metro Transit to replace trains with buses in Coon Rapids and Fridley when trains go down.

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