Updated: 02/24/2014 9:05 PM KSTP.com By: Todd Wilson
Wait times for Northstar commuters were getting long Monday. Some riders say they waited up to 1.5 hours to step aboard.
Tom Wesley has been riding Northstar from the Elk River Station for 3.5 years. He's a retired, disabled veteran who depends on the ride to get to Minneapolis for work. His wait time Monday went from 15 minutes to 1.5 hours.
"We're still seeing the same number of cars coming and going, but there's an interruption and the more excuses we hear," said Wesley.
According to Metro Transit, the problem Northstar faced Monday morning was increased freight traffic. Northstar shares tracks with Burlington Northern Santa Fe, and there were some freight rail cars the locomotives simply couldn't get around.
Early Monday morning Metro Transit sent out a message to Northstar Riders. "Knowing that commuters needed to make quick decisions about how they're going to get to work, we did in this extreme case tell them that - if you already haven't got on the train maybe you want to stay in your car," Drew Kerr of Metro Transit said.
A quick fix was needed. "We had St. Cloud metro bus partnering with us to provide replacement bus service at most of the Northern stations," Kerr said.
KSTP contacted BNSF Railway and they sent an email stating, "BNSF Railway apologizes for the impact today to Northstar commuter service. Since the winter storm we have been impacted by signal and switch issues, which contributed to a backlog of freight traffic throughout the Twin Cities region."
BNSF says they expect it will take several days to work through the freight congestion. In the meantime, they are rerouting traffic where possible and staging trains further out of the immediate Twin Cities area to help with the recovery.