The commissioner of transportation shall establish a position of state rail safety inspector in the Office of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations of the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The commissioner shall apply to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) of the United States Department of Transportation to participate in the Federal State Rail Safety Partnership Program for training and certification of an inspector under authority of United States Code, title 49, sections 20103, 20105, 20106, and 20113, and Code of Federal Regulations, title 49, part 212. The state rail safety inspector shall inspect mainline track, secondary track, and yard and industry track; inspect railroad right-of-way, including adjacent or intersecting drainage, culverts, bridges, overhead structures, and traffic and other public crossings; inspect yards and physical plants; review and enforce safety requirements; review maintenance and repair records; and review railroad security measures. To the extent delegated by the commissioner, the inspector may issue citations for violations of this chapter, or to ensure railroad employee and public safety and welfare.
The commissioner shall annually assess railroad companies that are (1) defined as common carriers under section 218.011, (2) classified by federal law or regulation as Class I Railroads or Class I Rail Carriers, and (3) operating in this state, by a division of equal proportion between carriers, assessed in equal amounts for 365 days of the calendar year. The commissioner shall assess all start-up or re-establishment costs, and all related costs of initiating the state rail safety inspector program beginning July 1, 2008. The state rail inspector duties must begin and be assessed on January 1, 2009. The assessments must be deposited in a special account in the special revenue fund, to be known as the state rail safety inspection account. Money in the account is appropriated to the commissioner and may be expended to cover the costs incurred for the establishment and ongoing responsibilities of the state rail safety inspector.
The commissioner may exempt a common carrier not federally classified as Class I from violations for a period of up to two years if the common carrier applies for participation in a work site safety coaching program, such as the "MNSharp" program administered by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, and the commissioner determines such participation to be preferred enforcement for safety or security violations.
Any person aggrieved by an assessment levied under this section may appeal within 90 days any assessment, violation, or administrative penalty to the Office of Administrative Hearings, with further appeal and review by the district court.