Rail Lines Face Bottlenecks in Bakken

Oil Rail Car Image
Oil Rail Car Image

At the Surface Transportation Board (STB) hearing this week in Fargo, ND, officials from the state and other upper Midwestern states urged U.S. regulators to put pressure on railroads to fix issues that are blocking grain shipments. The culprit some believe is the oil & gas industry - in August, approximately 60% of oil produced in North Dakota was transported out of the state by rail, and some argue the railroads are favoring oil companies over agriculture.

Bloomberg reported, as grain produced last year sits in storage, waiting for trains to carry it to market, the bottlenecks may get worse as an anticipated record grain harvest begins, officials warned.

John Hoeven, the Republican Senator from North Dakota, said at the hearing, “the bottom line is that we need greater rail capacity to meet the growing needs of North Dakota’s expanding economy and dynamic businesses and farms. To make that happen, railroads must commit to investing in more rail infrastructure, including more locomotives, more railcars and more crews.

In June, the board ordered the railroads to provide weekly updates on bottlenecks. Regulators can order railroads to prioritize certain shipments over others, although that power is rarely used, the Bloomberg article noted.

BNSF Railway, along with Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd., was directed by the STB to appear. Earlier in 2014, BNSF said it would hire 5,000 workers and add 500 locomotives to expand its network. The company said it’s spending $390-million on expansion and maintenance projects in North Dakota in 2014. Since 2009, traffic in and out of North Dakota has increased by 144% on BNSF.

Read more at star-telegram.com