The intersection of Hwy 47/Ferry St. and the BNSF Railway has safety issues. Highway-railroad grade crossings, which Hwy 47/Ferry St. and the BNSF Railroad is considered, have been a high point of collisions that result in serious injury or fatality according to the U.S. Department of Transportation Railroad Administration. Since warning/control devices were installed at these intersections, there has been a tremendous reduction in collisions. However, determining which crossings needed additional safety improvements became more difficult. The Texas Department of Transportation developed a prioritization formula that identifies the risks associated with each highway-railroad grade crossing.
From this formula (known as the Texas Priority Index) the Hwy 47/Ferry St. and BNSF railroad crossing was deemed one of the worst crossings in the state of Minnesota because of:
- High traffic volumes (18,300 vehicles/day) + high train volumes (40-80 trains/day)
- Train speeds as high as 75 mph
- Major property damage crashes occurred in 1972, 1973, 1976 and 1986. In 2003, a teen driver collided with a train, resulting in four fatalities.
The proposed options from this study would improve safety for motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists and trains.
Additional safety concerns
These secondary needs within the project area will also be considered as long as they don’t substantially increase project cost and impact.
- Traffic delays of train lengths, mixture of trains (freight, Amtrak and Northstar), volume, and frequent gate-down times result in back-ups onto Hwy 10, sometimes as far back as Bunker Lake Blvd
- The nearby Northstar Station requires lowering gates when westbound trains approach the station. This results in lowered gates as long as two minutes.
- Frequent lowered gates occasionally leads drivers to drive around them, which is a safety concern
Access and traffic operations
- Unmarked business driveways near this intersection lead to driver confusion and difficult or unsafe turning maneuvers when trains are present or approaching
- The number of driveways and roadways that access Hwy 47/Ferry St. compromise safety and add to roadway congestion
- Roadway congestion (due to insufficient capacity) results in high crash rates (mainly rear-ends)
Prior study outcome
- MnDOT studied the benefits and impacts of two main alternatives: a bridge over the railroad tracks or a tunnel beneath the railroad tracks
- The study identified one possible solution as a multi-span, two-lane bridge with a mixed use trail on Hwy 47/Ferry St. over the BNSF railroad tracks.
Final Report completed in 2016.