North Dakota rail bottleneck to last at least through month's end


The trainloads of crude oil transported from North Dakota to refineries across the nation will continue to snag westbound Amtrak passenger service until at least Feb. 28.

Forum News Service reports the popular Empire Builder will continue to bypass Grand Forks and Devils Lake in North Dakota through the end of the month. The Associated Press reported that passengers in those cities are being bused to either Minot or to Fargo to reconnect to westbound or eastbound trains.

The Empire Builder operates on tracks it leases from BNSF, which attributes the delays and schedule changes to increased rail traffic and higher cargo volume. Cold weather and ice on the tracks have also contributed to delays. NPR News found that delays — sometimes up to 18 hours — have become routine on the route between Portland, Seattle and Chicago, with trains on the Empire Builder route between Chicago and the Pacific Northwest often delayed for hours.

In addition to North Dakota, the route crosses Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana and Idaho.

The Seattle Times did a spot check using Amtrak’s online train-status reporting tool and found the Empire Builder that was scheduled to arrive in Seattle at 10:25 a.m. last Thursday was running 10 hours and 55 minutes late and had aew projected arrival time of 9:20 p.m.

BNSF officials have said that the railroad is investing heavily to expand capacity to help ease the bottleneck.

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