Railroads in Devils Lake basin to be raised in spring
A 17-mile span of flood-threatened railroad tracks and two bridges in the Devils Lake Basin will be raised out of danger next year. BNSF Railway CEO Matt Rose told the North Dakota congressional delegation this week that construction will begin i...
A 17-mile span of flood-threatened railroad tracks and two bridges in the Devils Lake Basin will be raised out of danger next year.
BNSF Railway CEO Matt Rose told the North Dakota congressional delegation this week that construction will begin in the spring on the $97.4 million project along the BNSF track.
Rising floodwaters in the Devils Lake Basin have threatened the rail lines and bridges near Churchs Ferry, 23 miles west of the city of Devils Lake.
Amtrak was forced to suspend service on its Empire Builder line earlier this year. Service resumed this summer.
Rose told Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., that he would work with Amtrak to provide any additional funding to complete the project.
"The Devils Lake rail project shares costs and demonstrates a real collaboration among the partners," the North Dakota delegation said in a joint statement. "That serves both passengers on the Amtrak Empire Builder line, and improves freight service for BNSF, enhancing the competitiveness of the entire region."
Earlier, BNSF and Amtrak agreed to provide $32.5 million each, with BNSF financing Amtrak's share, toward the project. That left about $32 million to be funded by state or local sources.
Last week, the delegation announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation had awarded a $10 million grant to the state to help cover the costs.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple indicated this week that he would include funding in his next executive budget, as well as rely on other sources, to raise another $10 million.
The $12 million gap is what Rose is promising to bridge with Amtrak's help.
Amtrak's Empire Builder passenger train service was suspended through northern North Dakota several times earlier this year because of flooding and high water from the Devils Lake Basin's 18-year-old flood.
The line provides both passenger and freight service among Fargo, Grand Forks, Devils Lake, Rugby, Minot, Stanley and Williston.
BNSF, which owns the track and leases it to Amtrak, no longer operates freight trains through the flooded Churchs Ferry area.
It serves grain terminals and other businesses from either Grand Forks or Minot, then returning to those cities. The railroad reroutes its trains on its Surrey Cutoff line, which runs diagonally between Fargo and Surrey, N.D., east of Minot.
When the construction project is completed, BNSF expects to resume regular freight service over the line.
In 2010, Amtrak 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.
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