Hoeven Marks Progress on Devils Lake Amtrak Upgrades, Outlines Path Forward

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today held a roundtable in Devils Lake with city and county officials and the manager of BTR Farmers Coop, to mark progress in efforts to upgrade the Amtrak Empire Builder line, including raising track and bridges, necessitated by rising waters in the lake region. The general project objectives are to secure the viability of freight service as well as Amtrak passenger service between Grand Forks and Minot on the Devils Lake track.

“The Devils Lake rail project is a shared undertaking, with both private-sector and public-sector support, including funding from the federal Department of Transportation,” Hoeven said. “That serves both passengers on the Amtrak Empire Builder line, and improves freight service for BNSF, helping to secure the commercial competitiveness of the entire lake region. It means continuing service to communities like Rugby, Devils Lake and Grand Forks.”

Hoeven said the three-phase rail project is proceeding on schedule, with the first phase expected to be completed by the end of the year. Phase I, which will raise about 5.5 miles of track up to five feet, is largely being funding by the BNSF Railway Company. Senator Hoeven worked with BNSF CEO Matt Rose to cover about one third of the project or approximately $33 million. Federal funds including $33 million from Amtrak and $10 million from a federal transportation department TIGER grant will also support the upgrade, and the state is working to provide the remaining funds for the $100 million project.

Phase II will commence next year and will consist of replacing rail, switches and “other track material” and raising approximately 12.4 miles of grade. The third phase of the project will be implemented if water levels continue to rise and affect the use of the track through Devils Lake. It would consist of raising the grade and track up to 4 feet incrementally along a section of the railway.