Kevin Bonham, Forum News Service, Published February 10 2014
Amtrak disruptions in ND to continue until March; heavy freight traffic ties up rail linesGRAND FORKS – Westbound Amtrak train service will continue to bypass Grand Forks and Devils Lake through North Dakota until at least Feb. 28.
That means passengers with stops in Grand Forks, Devils Lake and Rugby will be bused to and from Fargo or Minot, just as Amtrak has been doing for nearly three weeks, as the westbound Empire Builder train travels from Fargo and Minot, using a route through New Rockford.
In a notice on its website, Amtrak said both the eastbound and westbound trains also will experience significant delays.
“We are working to reduce delays whenever possible and provide our passengers with more reliable service,” Amtrak said in the notice.
The Amtrak delays are the result of BNSF Railway rerouting all trains on its tracks through North Dakota. Since mid-January, all westbound Amtrak traffic has been detoured at Fargo to the New Rockford line, which runs diagonally between Fargo and Minot.
All eastbound traffic has been traveling on the northern route through the state, with stops in Williston, Stanley, Minot, Rugby, Devils Lake, Grand Forks and Fargo.
The Empire Builder operates on tracks it leases from BNSF, which attributes the delays and schedule changes to increased rail traffic brought on by growing volumes of industrial products and agricultural products, as well as oil shipments from the Bakken Formation of western North Dakota.
Meanwhile, Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., will meet today in Washington with senior officials from BNSF, as well as major farm organizations and sugar producers, in an effort to resolve the transportation disruptions.
“BNSF and our producers need to find a solution that moves sugar and other agricultural products to market in a timely fashion,” Hoeven said. “We’re bringing all the principals to the table to discuss measures that can be taken in both the short and long term to address the challenge.”
Those scheduled to participate in the meeting are John Doxsie, president of United Sugars Inc.; Jim Johnson, president of U.S. Beet Sugar Association; Mark Watne, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union; David Berg, CEO and president, American Crystal Sugar Co.; and Matt Rose, BNSF executive director.
Hoeven said he also plans to address delays to Amtrak service.