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Published June 20, 2012, 07:00 AM

Railroad raising underway in Devils Lake area

Construction crews are installing new ties and laying new rails along a 15-mile stretch of flood-threatened railroad tracks in the Devils Lake Basin. Work began earlier this month on the $100 million project on BNSF Railway tracks along the route of Amtrak’s Empire Builder passenger trains. The project calls for raising the tracks an average of 5 feet this year, to an elevation of 1,461 feet above sea level, according to Amy McBeth, a BNSF spokeswoman.

By: Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks Herald

Construction crews are installing new ties and laying new rails along a 15-mile stretch of flood-threatened railroad tracks in the Devils Lake Basin.

Work began earlier this month on the $100 million project on BNSF Railway tracks along the route of Amtrak’s Empire Builder passenger trains.

The project calls for raising the tracks an average of 5 feet this year, to an elevation of 1,461 feet above sea level, according to Amy McBeth, a BNSF spokeswoman.

“Most of the track raise will occur in early September,” she said.

By then, as many as 75 people will be working on the construction project in that 15-mile stretch east of Churchs Ferry, N.D., which is 23 miles west of the city of Devils Lake.

Two bridges along the route likely will be raised this fall.

The second phase will raise the tracks another 5 feet to 1,466 feet in 2013.

The Devils Lake project involves the placement of more than 12,800 railroad ties and some 15 miles of rail and two new bridges, according to McBeth. It requires about 200,000 cubic yards of fill, 46,000 cubic yards of riprap and about 20,000 cubic yards of ballast.

Breaks in service

Amtrak stopped using the track several times last year because of high winds that created dangerous waves and tossed debris onto the tracks and threatened the lakebed.

BNSF also has stopped using the line as a through route for its freight trains. For the past two years, it has been serving grain elevators and other businesses in the Devils Lake Basin with shorter trains dispatched from Grand Forks and Minot before being returned to those locations.

Devils Lake rose by about 32 feet and quadrupled in size between 1992 and 2011, peaking at an elevation of 1,454.4 feet last June. The lake has fallen by about 1.25 feet since then, after a dry fall and winter.

BNSF, Amtrak and the state of North Dakota are sharing the project cost, with each picking up about one-third of the cost. BNSF is financing Amtrak’s portion. North Dakota’s share is supplemented by a $10 million federal grant.


Call Bonham at (701) 780-1110, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1110 or email kbonham@gfherald.com.

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