Congressional Delegation Presses DOT Secretary for Federal Aid for ND's Flooded Transportation System

Lawmakers Look to Secure Threatened Devils Lake Rail Line

Washington – Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven and Congressman Rick Berg met today with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to highlight the devastation floodwaters have caused to North Dakota's  transportation system and push for federal aid to protect a key rail line threatened by the rising waters of Devils Lake. 

"North Dakota has been hit and hit hard this year by a series of natural disasters.  Our state's transportation infrastructure has been seriously damaged and we will need additional support as we work through this recovery," the delegation told Secretary LaHood.  

The delegation thanked the Secretary for  $5 million in DOT Emergency Relief funds awarded to North Dakota earlier this week to repair flood damaged roads, but said still more must be done. North Dakota Department of Transportation estimates that flood damage to the state's federal aid roads is more than $220 million.  

In today's meeting, the Congressional delegation also pushed for federal funding to help secure a rail line in the Devils Lake basin that is being threatened by rising floodwaters.  Amtrak has had to suspend service periodically in recent weeks on its Empire Builder line which runs through North Dakota, Montana, Idaho and Minnesota due to high water. 

Earlier this month, the delegation secured a commitment from Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad and Amtrak to pay two thirds of the approximately  $100 million needed to save the threatened rail line. The delegation today asked Secretary LaHood to help secure the remaining one third in funding through a federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant . The Congressional delegation is also working to identify potential funding sources in the FY2012 budget and at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help cover the remaining one-third in costs.  

Today's meeting was a follow-up to a June 15th meeting convened by Senator Conrad with North Dakota lawmakers and the leaders of BNSF, Amtrak, and the Administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration.  

"Amtrak service is important to North Dakota.  And it is important to the cities of Grand Forks, Devils Lake, and Rugby.  The State of North Dakota will be preparing a TIGER grant application, and we want to work with Secretary LaHood to make sure this project gets every consideration," the delegation said in a joint statement. 

In 2010, Amtrak had more than 123,000 boardings and offloads in North Dakota.  Nearly a quarter of that ridership was from the cities of Grand Forks, Devils Lake and Rugby.