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BNSF announces $326 million in projects for Minnesota in 2015

BNSF Railway crews construct track in northern Minnesota near Canadian border. Photo courtesy BNSF Railway

MINNEAPOLIS -- A leading rail company announced Thursday a $326 million spending plan to repair and update its infrastructure in Minnesota.

BNSF Railway Company allocated the funds as part of its $6 billion capital expenditure program for 2015. Maintenance and expansion of key routes in the state are part of the company’s effort to respond to increased rail congestion in the state.

“This year’s substantial investments in Minnesota are a clear reflection of how important our operations in the state are to our overall network and our unwavering commitment to always operating safely,” said a statement released by Tom Albanese, BNSF general manager operations Twin Cities Division.

According to the release, projects will reach all corners of the state, including nearly 270 miles of track surfacing and replacement of 125 miles of track.

Commuter rail traffic that operates on the BNSF network of rail, such as Northstar and Amtrak, should experience less frequent delays as a result of expanded routes and traffic control projects, said Amy McBeth, spokesperson for BNSF. She also said the company is adding locomotives and staff to help address increasing demand from shippers from all sectors.

Among the BNSF projects:

  • In north-central Minnesota, constructing double-track segments from Big Lake to Becker and Little Falls to Darling and starting working for a double-track project from Randall to Lincoln to be completed in 2016.
  • Upgrading signal systems to improve train traffic flow.
  • Building a new train siding in northwest Minnesota to improve flow.

The $6 billion companywide effort was announced in November. Nearly half of that -- $2.9 billion -- will be used to maintain existing track, with the rest going to expansion and efficiency projects and equipment purchases. 2015 will be the third year in a row the company has broken its all-time capital expenditure budget.

Announcements regarding capital spending by BNSF in other states in the region are coming soon, McBeth said.

Expansion has become necessary due to a spike in crude oil rail shipments. According to the Association of American Railroads, the amount of crude oil terminated carloads -- cars which were unloaded -- in the U.S. increased nearly sixfold from 2011 to 2013, from just less than 75,000 to nearly 450,000. McBeth said Minnesota has experienced a “significant” increase in rail traffic due to oil drilling in North Dakota’s Bakken oilfields.

Robb Jeffries

Robb Jeffries is a news coordinator for Forum News Service. He is a graduate of the University of North Dakota and previously served as a reporter and copy editor for the Grand Forks Herald. Reach him at rjeffries@forumcomm.com and follow him on Twitter at @robbjeffries.

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