Axness, Reisenauer introduce RAILS Plan to address rail congestion, improve safety, modernize infrastructure

Axness, Reisenauer introduce RAILS Plan to address rail congestion, improve safety, modernize infrastructure

(FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JULY 15, 2014 – FARGO, ND) – Saying that the Public Service Commission (PSC) has failed to adequately address railroad access and safety concerns, PSC candidates Tyler Axness and Todd Reisenauer announced today their plan to incentivize rail infrastructure investment and modernize the state’s rail system to deal with increased traffic and safety concerns.

Axness and Reisenauer unveiled their “RAILS Plan” today at a news conference in Fargo in Cass County, which is the most heavily trafficked county when it comes to rail usage. RAILS stands for Railroad Access and Increased Line Safety. The RAILS Plan consists of four points:

1) Require Railroad Commodities Data: Require railroads to submit to the PSC the data related to volume of commodities shipped. This action will provide transparency to the public and either confirm or disprove the public perception that crude oil shipments are getting preferential treatment over grain shipments and AMTRAK service.

2) Conduct an Infrastructure Investment Study: Conduct a study to determine the capacity needs and infrastructure inadequacies of our current rail system. Railroad companies, agriculture groups/companies, oil and gas companies, and AMTRAK will be asked to submit their information to the PSC. Once it is determined what investments are needed, the state will match up to 25% of the rail upgrade investment.

3) Create a State Rail Inspection Program that Meets North Dakota’s Needs: This proposal adds long overdue state rail inspectors to ensure our line safety. Thirty other states have created a state run program in partnership with the federal government. Our program will add as many rail inspectors as needed, but not any more than necessary, to adequately guarantee a strong rail inspection program.

4) Hold a First-Responders Roundtable: The PSC will host a first-responders roundtable to learn firsthand what North Dakota’s first-responders need to address safety concerns related to increased rail traffic. The roundtable’s findings will be provided in a full report to the Legislature with a request that the state cover all expenses for necessary upgrades.

Todd Reisenauer“Our proposal is another set of common sense solutions that restores accountability to the Public Service Commission, a means to ending rail congestion, a plan that will modernize rail infrastructure and improve safety,” said Todd Reisenauer.

Tyler Axness adds: “Our opponents will accuse us of pitting agriculture against energy when, in fact, their failures have created unnecessary tension between these two industries. Our plan asks them to come together to meet the challenges of both industries face in transporting their commodities.”

Axness observes that PSC is too much like the rest of state government. “The state government is just governing by emergency these days. All we are getting out of Bismarck is action after the fact or unacceptable excuses such as farmers should just increase their storage capacity. We can’t expect our farmers to simply put up another grain bin when their product sits for several weeks losing its value because the rail lines are congested by oil trains. There needs to be a balance.”

Both candidates say that the state has failed to invest in improving our state’s rail infrastructure. Reisenauer specifically contends that this is due to the lack of political balance in Bismarck.

“There’s not a lot of big ideas coming out of state government today because there’s too much group think taking place in Bismarck. Everything that Tyler and I are proposing today should already have been done by the PSC but the current commissioners are either unwilling or incapable of doing it. No one is sitting in those PSC meetings asking the question: ‘Have we thought of this?’ We plan on changing that.”

Axness is seeking the special two-year term on the PSC. Originally from Leeds, Axness represents Fargo’s District 16 in the North Dakota Senate and is the communication and policy coordinator for the Freedom Resource Center. Reisenauer, an independent business consultant with extensive experience in business development, is seeking the six-year term on the PSC. He is originally from Dickinson and now lives in Fargo.

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SEE ALSO: North Dakota Century Code: Railroad Regulation by Public Service Commission

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