CHICAGO (AP) - A
group that advocates for train and rail transit passengers says a massive
increase in rail shipments of crude oil from the northern Plains is partly
to blame for disruptions to an Amtrak route linking Chicago and the West
Association of Railroad Passengers wrote to U.S. Transportation Secretary
Anthony Foxx this week urging him to intervene.
Builder service runs along a BNSF Railway route that has seen an increase in
oil shipments from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana.
Winter weather has
exacerbated several months of disruptions. Westbound Amtrak trains this week
have had to bypass several stops stretching across much of North Dakota,
forcing the railroad to use buses to get passengers to those destinations.
Delays have reached up to 10 hours.
A sugar company
based outside Fargo, N.D., is also complaining about disruptions on the BNSF
line. American Crystal Sugar Co. officials said this week they’re worried
that a slowdown in rail service could cost the company millions of dollars
if it continues to disrupt production. American Crystal Sugar said it plans
to scale back on output at three of its plants because it’s running out of
storage space waiting for rail cars.
Amy McBeth said severe weather was to blame for the most recent impacts. To
try to reduce congestion from increased freight volumes, she said the
railroad invested more than $200 million in North Dakota last year and plans
more improvements this year that will benefit all rail users.
As far as the
Amtrak disruptions, the passenger rail service and BNSF and have had
discussions on ways to resolve the issue, but the freight railroad has
advised Amtrak not to expect improvements for months, Amtrak spokesman Marc
weather has played a contributing factor, the delays are in large part due
to the logjam of rail congestion caused by hundreds of additional freight
trains transporting crude oil extracted in North Dakota to refineries in
other parts of the U.S.,” said the letter from the National Association of
Railroad Passengers to Secretary Foxx.
president of the rail passenger advocacy group, calls the situation
“Crude oil is being
given priority over people,” Capon said.
Builder service is its most popular long-distance overnight train. It runs
from Chicago to Portland, Ore., and Seattle, Wash.
Oil from North
Dakota began being shipped by trains in 2008, when the state reached its
then-capacity for pipeline shipments. North Dakota is now the nation’s No. 2
oil producer, behind Texas.