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BNSF to focus on maintenance in ND rail program this year

FARGO -- After spending about $1.1 billion in the past three years on installing 100 miles of double track from Minot to Williston and other expansion projects, the BNSF Railway announced Tuesday it's focusing on maintenance this year.

FARGO -- After spending about $1.1 billion in the past three years on installing 100 miles of double track from Minot to Williston and other expansion projects, the BNSF Railway announced Tuesday it’s focusing on maintenance this year.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based railway announced it’s cutting back and spending about $100 million this year, primarily on maintenance projects involving replacing and upgrading rail, ties and ballast across the state.

BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said the work starting this spring will include the replacement of about 55 miles of rail and close to 240,000 ties and resurfacing and undercutting more than 740 miles of track.

There will also be signal crossing upgrades and continuing the installation of centralized traffic control projects along the Dickinson to Fargo line which will help manage rail traffic while improving train flows.

McBeth said the centralized traffic control project allows dispatchers to remotely control switches on the tracks so train crews don’t have to physically make transfers.

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About half of BNSF’s capital program annually involves maintenance. However in the past three years, the rail line boosted its capacity in North Dakota because of the oil boom investing $273 million in 2013, $506 million in 2014 and $400 million last year.

The work last year included about 36 miles of the double track between Minot and Williston.

“We’ve invested significant capital in our network in North Dakota over the last several years to meet the needs of all our customers, and we’re in the state for the long run,” said Tom Albanese, BNSF general manager of operations for the Twin Cities division. “With our added capacity and our continued focus this year on maintaining our infrastructure for safe operations, our railroad is in the best shape it’s ever been in North Dakota and across our network.”

The capital investments in the state are part of BNSF’s $4.3 billion network-wide capital expenditure program this year across the nation announced last month. These investments include $2.8 billion to replace and maintain rail lines and related assets, $500 million on expansion and efficiency projects, $300 million for continued implementation of federally mandated railroad safety measures and more than $600 million for locomotives, freight cars and equipment acquisitions.

BNSF operates about 32,500 miles of track in 28 states and also operates in three Canadian provinces.

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