Amtrak service to continue

Mike Bellmore, Features Editor
One of the bridges on the BNSF Railway tracks that needs to be raised is this one located west of Devils Lake near Churchs Ferry. This photo was taken on June 1, 2011.

A North Dakota Coalition seems to have struck a deal to save Amtrak from the flooded lake.

The state and federal coalition along with Amtrak and BNSF Railway officials met Wednesday in Washington and have apparently agreed to split the costs of a nearly $100 million project  to rebuild a 17-mile stretch of track and two bridges near Churchs Ferry.

BNSF and Amtrak apparently each agreed to pay a third of the cost while state and federal governments will pay the other third, said Sen. Kent Conrad, who arranged the meeting.

Devils Lake Mayor Dick Johnson and Ramsey County Commissioner Joe Belford were at the meeting. Johnson was unavailable for comment early today but Belford was willing to speak.

“It’s good news,” he said. “All the main people were there and they all were willing to work and maintain the rail lines.

“It’s not official yet, but there was kind of an agreement to pay one-third apiece and we were assured they were all committed to making it work.

“I think we won.”

Conrad said he will continue to work with North Dakota officials to make it work.

Wednesday was deemed an opportunity to have a serious discussion on what is transpiring here in the Devils Lake Basin.

The track has been closed on several occasions this spring due to flooding and water problems.

Amtrak resumed service Wednesday for the first time in nearly three weeks on its regular route along the northern tier.

Each time Amtrak suspends service, BNSF?crews must inspect the tracks and roadbed before service can be resumed.

In the short term, BNSF apparently will spend $2.5 million for riprap to ensure operations continue while work can be completed on the long-term project.

Conrad, John Hoeven, Governor Dalrymple, Johnson, Francis Ziegler of the Department of Transportation and Amtrak and BNSF CEO’s were among those at the meeting.

BNSF?owns the tracks and has not operated through trains between Grand Forks and Minot in well over a year.