BNSF Railway Company this week said it has kicked off its plan to invest approximately $1 billion to improve and expand rail capacity in states along its Northern Corridor, covering parts of North Dakota, Washington, Montana, Illinois and Minnesota, where agricultural rail service has been sluggish.
Some of the projects will help expand capacity and improve traffic flow for all freight and passenger trains for current and future growth on those routes, BNSF says.
Carl Ice, president and chief executive officer of BNSF Railway, said the investment follows a $4 billion project started last year, which will allow more locomotive, freight car and other equipment acquisitions.
"Our capital investments along the Northern Corridor are critical to expanding our capacity to support the region's rapidly growing economy, improving our ability to meet our customers' expectations and ensuring our railroad remains the safest mode of ground transportation for freight," he said in a released statement.
At the outset of planting season, there was concern among northern growers that fertilizer would not arrive fast enough to meet pre-planting needs. BNSF was then asked to testify before the National Surface Transportation Board on the sluggish rail service impacting agricultural commodities, and was subsequently required to provide timely progress reports on its plans to expedite shipments and relieve any backlogs in service.
The National Grain and Feed Association, along with other agricultural commodity groups, testified at the hearing. Canadian Pacific, also experiencing service delays, was asked to provide progress reports as well.
BNSF project highlights
As BNSF considers ways to expedite service across the northern tier, it has outlined the state-by-state highlights of planned capital investments:
North Dakota: BNSF plans to invest approximately $400 million in North Dakota to expand rail capacity, replace and maintain the network infrastructure, and continue the implementation of Positive Train Control technology.
The company will complete construction of a second mainline track between Minot, N.D., and Glasgow, Mont., and construct new tracks adjacent to the mainline track to expand capacity by enabling more trains to meet and pass one another on the predominately single track routes between several North Dakota and Montana cities.
Washington: $235 million in Washington to expand rail capacity, replace and maintain the network infrastructure, and continue the implementation of PTC technology.
Montana: $160 million in Montana to expand rail capacity, replace and maintain the network infrastructure, and continue the implementation of PTC technology.
Expansion projects include extending track lengths at train yards in Glendive and Forsyth, Mont., constructing a siding between Marsh and Terry, Mont., extending train sidings at Beaver Hill, Blatchford, Hodges, Hysham and Rosebud, Mont., and upgrading to CTC and extending a train siding at Terry, Mont.
Illinois: $150 million in Illinois to expand rail capacity, replace and maintain the network infrastructure, and continue the implementation of PTC technology. Approximately $12 million will be spent on expansion projects in the Chicago area.
Investments benefit other states
The company also plans to invest approximately $120 million in Minnesota, $30 million in South Dakota, $50 million in Wisconsin and $10 million in Idaho for projects that either expand capacity or help maintain the network infrastructure.
BNSF said it expects enhancements along the Northern Corridor will benefit the movement of all commodities in the states along that route.
South Dakota, for example, will benefit from investments made in neighboring states. Approximately 75% to 80% of the corn and soybeans produced in South Dakota is exported with the majority of those crops being delivered to ports in the Pacific Northwest on BNSF's network, the company said.
Click here for a map detailing 2014 capital projects.