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North Dakota releases draft of 2040 state rail plan
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North Dakota releases draft of 2040 state rail plan

North Dakota is seeking comments on the draft of its new state rail plan, which looks ahead to 2040.

According to the Executive Summary, the draft plan focuses on ensuring safe rail transportation; providing consistently reliable, diverse Class I, short line and passenger rail service; rail service expansion and economic development opportunities; funding future rail improvements; and understanding and defining the role of the state of North Dakota in rail transportation.

It also seeks to answer for key questions: What is the importance of North Dakota’s rail system? What are its needs? What should the state’s rail transportation priorities be? What improvements and specific projects are required?

The plan notes that rail’s share of the state’s total freight activity rose from 12 percent in 2002 to almost 21 percent  in 2015. It forecasts that North Dakota originating rail traffic will grow 24 percent by 2040 while North Dakota terminating rail traffic will grow 33 percent – compared to an overall increase in U.S. rail traffic projected to be 18 percent – between 2015 and 2040.

The plan also notes that 54 percent of the state’s population lives within 25 miles, and 60 percent live within 50 miles of the seven passenger rail stations served by Amtrak’s Empire Builder (Chicago-Seattle/Portland, Ore.; one train each direction daily): Devil’s Lake, Fargo, Grand Forks, Minot, Rugby, Stanley and Williston.

The plan proposes more than $318 million in projects including rail, tie and ballast replacement, replacement of turnouts, interchange track additions, construction of new storage tracks and shop and multimodal facilities.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT), the North Dakota Public Service Commission, North Dakota Department of Commerce, the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, the North Dakota Pipeline Authority, and the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute collaborated on the plan. Parsons Brinckerhoff oversaw the rail plan update.

You can comment on the draft 2040 state rail plan here. The deadline for comments is June 30.

See MIPRC’s previous coverage here.

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