BNSF capital investment plan in progress

BNSF crews were in Elk River this past week with heavy equipment to rip up railroad ties in preparation for putting new ones down.
BNSF crews were in Elk River this past week with heavy equipment to rip up railroad ties in preparation for putting new ones down.


• $5 billion worth of maintenance and improvements being done across Pacific Northwest to Chicago


by Jim Boyle


BNSF Railway Company crews were in Elk River this week working to replace ties, an effort that is part of the rail line’s routine planned maintenance.

“We continually invest in our physical infrastructure to keep it sound and safe,” said Amy McBeth, a BNSF spokesperson.

McBeth also said, however, BNSF announced earlier this year it is investing about $120 million in maintenance and expansion in Minnesota this year.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based railway business kicked off its plans on May 1 to invest approximately $1 billion to improve and expand rail capacity in states along its northern corridor, which spans the northern U.S. between the Pacific Northwest and Chicago. Some of the projects that will help expand capacity and improve traffic flow for all freight and passenger trains for current and future growth on those routes are well underway.

“Following our record capital investment in 2013 of $4 billion, we are making the most significant capital investment in our history of approximately $5 billion this year,” said Carl Ice, president and chief executive officer of BNSF Railway. “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.”

Highlights of BNSF’s planned capital investments along the corridor include parts of North Dakota, Washington, Montana, Illinois and Minnesota.

The work in Minnesota is to expand rail capacity, replace and maintain the network, and continue the implementation of positive train control technology. Expansion projects include:

•Parking expansions at the St. Paul Intermodal Facility in St. Paul.

•Adding track extensions in Gunn.

•Construction of a new siding and new interchange tracks close to the Canadian border near St. Vincent.

Maintenance projects include:

•Surfacing and undercutting of more than 600 miles of track.

•Replacing about 72 miles of rail.

•Replacing more than 340,000 ties.

The investments BNSF is making along the corridor will benefit the movement of all commodities in the states along that route, the company said.

This year, BNSF also plans to invest approximately $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.

South Dakota will also benefit from BNSF northern corridor investments made in neighboring states. Most (approximately 75 to 80 percent) 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 planned capital investments along the corridor are part of BNSF’s record 2014 capital commitment of $5 billion, which BNSF announced in February. As part of this plan, BNSF plans to spend approximately $1.6 billion on locomotive, freight car and other equipment acquisitions, which will be put into service all across its network, the company said.

Since 2000, BNSF has invested $42 billion to improve and expand its freight rail network.