BNSF executive offers flood recovery timetable
BNSF Railway expects to have all trains operating on their normal routes by October following severe flood damage this summer, enabling it once again to meet customer expectations for reliable and efficient freight deliveries, Chief Marketing Officer John Lanigan said in an Aug. 11 letter to customers posted on the company's Web site.
The next step in the Class 1 railroad's disaster response is to complete by Sept. 8 repairs and new additions to its network of bridges on a stretch of track between Lincoln, Neb., and Kansas City, Mo., that has been closed for eight weeks due to massive flooding. The reopening of the operating sector will make a significant difference in network performance, he said.
In total, BNSF estimates it will spend more than $300 million to restore and fortify its network.
Last winter a series of large snowstorms caused havoc for BNSF and other railroads. Record snow melt and spring rainfall resulted in flood waters at or near historic levels in North Dakota and further south along the Missouri River. Many tracks were washed out or closed for safety reasons. The most significant incident occurred when rising waters severed BNSF's busy corridor along the Missouri River that connects Lincoln and Kansas City.
BNSF responded by rerouting up to 40 percent of its trains and temporarily relocating almost 500 train crewmembers to maintain service on mainlines in the northern Plains and Midwest, Lanigan said. Grain trains destined to the West Coast through Minot, N.D., for example, were shifted through Sioux City, Iowa; and Lincoln and Billings, Mont., according to BNSF updates on the recovery.
A huge prevention and rebuilding effort began earlier this summer, including:
' Raising miles of track by as much as eight feet in some places.
' Building levees and berms to protect tracks, signal equipment, and operations centers.
' Replacing hundreds of miles of damaged track, bridges and structures, according to BNSF officials.
Despite all the work, the Fort Worth, Texas-based rail carrier is still rerouting about 20 percent of all shipments, Lanigan said. As floodwaters recede, BNSF will continue to reroute some traffic to allow for track inspections and repairs.
In acknowledging the deterioration in service, Lanigan wrote, 'We are committed to meeting your expectations and we are working hard to restore our network and your service to best in class as soon as possible.
BNSF is not the only railroad impacted by the severe weather this year. The Union Pacific earlier this month said operations are slowly returning to normal in certain sectors of its network in Kansas and Missouri, where it is operating a limited number of trains as conditions permit.
The Kansas City Southern and Canadian Pacific Railway also experienced similar disruptions in the Missouri Valley.
The Canadian National Railway Co. has the following notice posted on its Web site: 'CN has had no access to our yards at Council Bluffs, Iowa and Omaha, Neb. for several weeks; some of our trackage remains compromised by washouts and flooding that occurred earlier. We are unable to service local customers until clearance is provided by the authorities and water levels recede. The situation is expected to last for quite some time, and CN is taking every possible measure in order to mitigate the impact to customer operations.' ' Eric Kulisch