By ELOISE OGDEN
DEVILS LAKE Trains, trucks and crews are working in the Devils Lake area to raise the railroad tracks that have been threatened by rising water.
This is the second year of the project, said Amy McBeth, of Minneapolis, BNSF public relations director for the region.
"Last year BNSF raised the tracks an average of 5 feet and raised two bridges, as well as renewed ties and relayed some rail," McBeth said.
She said this year's work is the second phase. "It involves another round of raising the tracks west of Devils Lake an average of another five feet, as well as relaying rail. Ties and rail have already been upgraded and the current work involves taking the existing track and raising it up," she said.
McBeth said trains are operating on the route. "We conduct the track work during work windows. Outside of those windows, trains operate on the route.
In regard to Amtrak passenger trains which operate on BNSF tracks, McBeth said, "Unlike freight trains, passengers trains such as Amtrak operate on a specific time schedule. We make every effort to maintain the schedule for Amtrak trains, and in fact, we receive incentives for Amtrak operating on time on our network."
McBeth said the work to raise the tracks at Devils Lake is a partnership among BNSF, the state and Amtrak. "Our crews have been working there for several months and we expect the project to be complete later this fall," she said.
BNSF recently announced plans to spend an estimated $220 million in North Dakota just this year to improve and expand its rail capacity in the state.
Besides raising 10 miles of track over Devils Lake by 1 to 5 feet to keep the track above rising water, upgrading its 2013 capacity enhancement projects in North Dakota includes constructing three new sidings west of Minot near Manitou, Tioga and Palermo; extending the sidings near Glen Ullin and Hillsboro; improvements to six sidings between Minot and Grand Forks; upgrading the line between Berthold and Northgate on the Canadian border; installing Centralized Traffic Controls signal systems on three sidings near Devils Lake, Hillsboro and Towner; constructing a new double crossover track east of Williston; and lengthening existing tracks or adding new tracks at BNSF rail yards in Minot, Williston and Mandan.
Officials said, in the news release issued late this past summer, that BNSF will also continue its robust track maintenance program in North Dakota, which will include nearly 1,900 miles of track surfacing and undercutting work, the replacement of about 315 miles of rail and 415,000 ties, as well as significant signal upgrades for federally mandated positive train control.
The planned capital investments in North Dakota are part of BNSF's record 2013 capital commitment of $4.3 billion. BNSF plans to spend about $1 billion on locomotive, freight car and other equipment acquisitions, many of which will serve North Dakota; $2.3 billion on BNSF's core network and related assets; and about $200 million for positive train control and $800 million for terminal, line and intermodal expansion and efficiency projects.