Tuesday, December 13, 2011

North Dakota receives $10 million for line near Devils Lake

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The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded $10 million in federal resources to help upgrade the rail line near Devils Lake, N.D. These federal resources will be added to additional funding the state's congressional delegation worked to secure from Amtrak and BNSF to help cover the cost for the project, which many deem critical to regional commerce.

"This grant comes in addition to funding we have already secured from BNSF and Amtrak," the delegation, made of Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven and Congressman Rick Berg, said in a joint statement. "Each has put up $32.5 million and with the $10 grant announced today, we have $75 million toward the project. We will continue to work with the state and our partners to raise the balance and bring this project through to the finish line."

Rising floodwaters in the Devils Lake basin have threatened the rail lines and bridges near Churchs Ferry, forcing Amtrak had to suspend service on its Empire Builder line earlier this year.

In April, Amtrak and the North Dakota Department of Transportation released a report that estimated the cost to raise the track, bridges and other upgrades near Devils Lake to be about $97.4 million.

In June, the delegation hosted a meeting in Washington, D.C., that brought together the key stakeholders and focused on the future of the threatened section of rail track near Devils Lake. As a result of that meeting, both Amtrak and BNSF each committed to covering nearly one-third of the total cost of the upgrades. BNSF owns the tracks on which the Amtrak trains run.

The delegation said they have begun initial talks to reconvene the key stake holders in a meeting early next year to determine the best way to secure the remaining resources necessary to cover the project's cost.

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