Hoeven to Grain Dealers: Keystone XL, Other Pipelines Can Help Relieve Rail Congestion, Ag Shipping Delays

BISMARCK, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today told a gathering of the North Dakota Grain Dealers Association that one of the keys to relieving railway congestion and delays in agricultural shipments is pipelines like the Keystone XL.

“It takes 1,400 rail cars moving through the region every day to carry the same amount of oil that the Keystone XL pipeline will move,” Hoeven said. “They could be carrying wheat or soybeans or fertilizer. That’s a darn good reason in itself for building the Keystone XL, and more pipelines like it. Combined with the major investments the railroads have committed to make in infrastructure, we could see a real difference in moving ag products.”

Hoeven has authored legislation that is currently under debate, in the U.S. Senate to approve the project because of its multiple benefits to North Dakota and the nation. The bipartisan bill, led on the Democratic side by Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has 60 cosponsors, and 63 senators have indicated support for the legislation, enough to pass the Senate.

The senator has also been pressing the railroads to invest more resources in North Dakota because of the greater demand for shipping created by the state’s growing economy. Last year, Hoeven secured a commitment from BNSF to invest $5 billion in rail infrastructure, including $400 million in North Dakota to expand rail capacity for shippers, replace and maintain network infrastructure and continue the implementation of Positive Train Control technology to enhance safety and efficiency.

At the senator’s urging, CP Railway has also agreed to provide additional resources and staff to help meet North Dakota’s shipping needs. in September, the company told Hoeven it is committed to investing more than $1.3 billion in capital improvements companywide, including $500 million of upgrades in its U.S. system over the next two years. Of that $500 million, CP said it would invest $180 million to increase capacity, including new sidings and centralized train control technology.

At its peak, BNSF had about 8,000 late cars in North Dakota. As of mid-July, BNSF had about 4,000 cars past due. By early August, the railroad had reduced late cars to about 1,650 and they were an average of 22 days late. As of November 1, the railroad had 3,334 cars outstanding owing to harvest and they were an average of 15 days late. Last week, BNSF had 3,241 cars past due an average of 19.9 days.

In mid-August, when Hoeven invited CP officials to North Dakota to meet with shippers and agriculture groups, the company was spotting 1,900 cars a week to customers mid-September, that figure was over 2,700. Last week, the railway had a backlog of 1,158 cars backlogged for an average of just over four weeks. That is down from a backlog of 4,200 cars with an average delay of 10 weeks in August.

Hoeven has held roundtables and meetings throughout the past year to bring senior railroad officials and agricultural stakeholder together to give commodity groups an opportunity to air their concerns and help solve shipping problems. He said today he will continue working to make sure the railroads have the capacity necessary to meet the shipping needs of North Dakota farmers, grain dealers and others that rely on railroads for timely service.