North Dakotans rely on Amtrak serviceAmtrak passenger rail service is a popular transportation choice for people in North Dakota.
By: Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks Herald
Amtrak passenger rail service is a popular transportation choice for people in North Dakota.
Last year, the railroad recorded 123,000 boardings or offloads on its Empire Builder, which makes twice-daily stops in Fargo, Grand Forks, Devils Lake, Rugby, Minot, Stanley and Williston. Almost one-quarter of the passengers came from Grand Forks, Devils Lake and Rugby.
The state’s railroad boardings are about 9 percent of the 1.4 million passengers who fly to or from eight commercial airports annually in North Dakota.
The Empire Builder numbers likely will be significantly lower this year, however. Weather and flood-related problems between Devils Lake and Minot, as well as in Montana, interrupted Amtrak service in North Dakota for more than six weeks this summer and on a few occasions during the spring.
In June, BNSF Railway, Amtrak and a federal-state coalition agreed to split the estimated $97.4 million it will cost to rebuild a 17-mile stretch of flood-damaged or threatened track and two bridges near Churchs Ferry, N.D., west of Devils Lake, with each committing to one-third of the project. BNSF agreed to loan Amtrak its share of the money.
BNSF, which owns the track and leases the right to use it to Amtrak, also agreed to spend $2.5 million for emergency repairs to resume the service this summer.
The federal-state share of the larger project has not yet been secured, however.
Amtrak service has been threatened in the past in some of the smaller cities along the North Dakota route, including Devils Lake, Rugby and Stanley. However, local efforts and lobbying by the state’s congressional delegation ultimately succeeded in preserving service.