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Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton outlines his proposal to support road and rail projects in the area during a meeting Monday at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service

Dayton touts transportation proposal during Moorhead stop

MOORHEAD - Gov. Mark Dayton said his transportation improvement plan includes an underpass at Main Avenue and 21st Street to separate rail and street traffic as well as almost $660 million in annual funding for the city and county.

Dayton was flanked by local officials when he presented highlights of his plan, which would repair or replace nine bridges and about 106 miles of roadway improvements in the northwestern Minnesota counties of Clay, Wilkin, Otter Tail, Becker and Mahnomen.

The proposal, which requires legislative approval, would be paid by increases to the wholesale gasoline excise tax and motor vehicle registration fees. It also would tax railroad property to pay for rail safety initiatives.

"The railroads responsible for these problems have a responsibility to pay for these essential safety improvements," Dayton said.

His proposal - which he said the state would go to court to impose, if necessary - would mean almost $76,000 yearly in additional revenues for Moorhead.

Other area cities, counties and townships also would receive additional revenues. Clay County, for example would get almost $480,000 a year in annual railroad safety funding.

Each day, seven or eight unit trains carrying Bakken crude oil pass through Moorhead, resulting in delays that cumulatively add up to six hours daily, according to Moorhead fire officials.

Because of train delays, emergency crews can be delayed by 10 to 15 minutes when responding to calls on the north side, fire officials said.