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Brookings Voters Reject DM&E

November 8, 2006, 6:01 PM by Lou Raguse

Brookings Voters Reject DM&E
The city of Brookings lost the Dakota, Minnesota and Eastern Railroad headquarters four years ago, and now many voters are rejecting DM&E altogether.
On Tuesday, 56% of voters defeated an agreement with DM&E, which supporters say would have provided added safety measures at the lowest possible cost to the public before DM&E begins sending more trains through the city. 

But many voters saw this election as a way to say they don't want the railroad expanding in Brookings. 

When a train pulls through Brookings, it cuts through major intersections and a number of backyards. That was reason enough for Doug Sorensen to vote against the DM&E Railroad agreement with the city of Brookings.

"Track noise, engine noise, horns blowing," says Sorensen, who lives next to the railroad. "We get horns every time the train comes through, both ways, and... It disrupts your life."

But city leaders say rejecting the agreement will not stop DM&E from upgrading and running more trains through Brookings. 

"No. Not at all," says city council member Tim Reed. "The number of coal trains has nothing to do with the agreement."

Reed says the agreement would have added safety gates at intersections to prevent accidents, which eventually could allow the trains to pass through without blowing the whistle. 

"We felt that had the most safety we could possibly get," Reed said.

Sorensen wants those kinds of safety measures if the expansion happens and more trains start running through his back yard. 

But he still hopes it doesn't get to that point. 

" I don't want to make it any easier than possible," Sorensen says.

And the election was a way to send a message. 

"I think anything that the city does to make things easier for DM&E, and feels as if we're giving more support, just encouraged DM&E Railroad," he says.

If the agreement passed, the federal government would have paid for 90 percent of the upgrades, and DM&E had agreed to pick up the other 10 percent. 

City leaders now say the city could be responsible for the upgrades itself. 

The city council will discuss the issue on Tuesday.

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