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All aboard: Union Pacific spends $5.3 million to improve railway in Nobles County

Jesse Trelstad/Daily Globe1 / 2
Jesse Trelstad/Daily Globe2 / 2

WORTHINGTON — Finding a vacant hotel room in Worthington might be difficult come next week.

Union Pacific Railroad has booked rooms for a crew of 75 to 100 workers to stay in Worthington starting late next week to improve rail infrastructure from Worthington to the Iowa border. Mark Davis, the director of corporate relations and media at Union Pacific, said the $5.3 million investment in the rail line will be to replace 34,800 railroad ties and to install 11,000 tons of rock ballast.

Crews will repair the surfaces at 24 road crossings, he added.

“We do this for a number of reasons,” Davis said. “No. 1 is safety. No. 2 is you want to maintain your railroad to its maximum allowable speed. …If maintenance falls down, you have to reduce the speed of the track and that impacts your rail operations.”

Crews will be working with the proper road authorities — depending on whether it is a county or state road — when repairing road crossing surfaces.

“We’ll temporarily close the crossing, typically it takes about a day — sometimes it might be two days,” Davis said. “Our contractor will work with the road authority when that occurs and they try to keep a pretty good schedule, but sometimes between weather and whatever other issues might occur it might be changed. So I always remind everyone to watch for detour signs.”

Davis said Union Pacific does railroad improvements like this every year, and each project is planned ahead of time by using rail inspectors.

“Every year we have a capital project across our network — this year it is $4.2 billion,” he said. “Projects like this are sometimes planned up to five years ahead of time. It’s all based on information we receive from our track inspectors.”

David said the crews are scheduled to be done by mid-September.

Union Pacific owns 646 miles of track in Minnesota alone and approximately 32,000 miles of railroad in the United States. The company plans on investing $27 million in Minnesota in 2015 to improve the state’s railroads.

Freight railroads like Union Pacific operate on tracks built and maintained without taxpayer funds. Davis said that although an average of just six trains come through the area daily, upcoming maintenance is well worth the investment and is important to the company because the rail section connects it to crucial locations.

“It’s an important corridor for us because it links the Twin Cities down to Sioux City and from Sioux City the line drops down to Omaha,” he said. “That’s then where the traffic picks up and heads east or west.”

Kristin Kirtz
Kristin Kirtz is the Worthington City and School Board  reporter for the Daily Globe. Originally from Olivia, Minn. Kirtz enjoys the small town living of Worthington. She attended college at Minnesota State University Moorhead and graduated with a degree in Mass Communication with an emphasis in Multimedia Journalism. Kirtz landed her first newspaper job at the Hillsboro Banner in Hillsboro, N.D. where she worked as an ad manager and reporter for the weekly newspaper. In her spare time she enjoys hanging out with her husband, visiting friends and family, watching way too much TV and when able, taking the time off to do some traveling. 
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