Wednesday, December 28, 2011

North Dakota political leaders plan to move forward on Devils Lake project

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North Dakota Senators John Hoeven and Kent Conrad, Congressman Rick Berg and Governor Jack Dalrymple said they have a plan in place to move forward on upgrading the Amtrak-BNSF Railway near Devils Lake, ND. Rising floodwaters in the Devils Lake basin have threatened the rail lines and bridges near Churchs Ferry, forcing Amtrak to suspend service on its Empire Builder line earlier in 2011.

Hoeven spoke with BNSF CEO Matt Rose, who said construction could begin this spring with the funding that is currently in place. Rose said he would work with Amtrak to provide any additional funding to complete the estimated $97.4 million project. Governor Dalrymple said he would include funding in his next Executive Budget, as well as rely on other funding sources to raise the $10 million needed to complete the project.

In mid-December, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a $10 million TIGER III federal grant to the state of North Dakota to help cover the costs of the project with funds appropriated by Congress.

"The Devils Lake rail project shares costs and demonstrates a real collaboration among the partners," the North Dakota leaders 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."

The North Dakota leaders have been working throughout the year to secure full funding for the project, which will raise track, bridges and make additional upgrades to the line. The delegation has brought together key stakeholders to plan for the future of the threatened section of rail track near Devils Lake. BNSF owns the tracks on which the Amtrak trains run.

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