Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Rail traffic could shift from coal to passenger trains


Coal drives rail traffic between the Southwest Chief depot in Trinidad and Denver, Colorado also through Edgemont, South Dakota, Gillette, Wyoming and Laurel, Montana.

Up til now it's been easy money for Burlington Northern Santa Fe.
Rumors circulating around the community about Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) possibly eliminating its current Edgemont stop appear to be true, according to a statement from BNSF, issued Monday, March 14. One report listed 2,000 railroad job cuts during 2015 as railroad companies, including BNSF, Union Pacific and the Canadian National Railway, tried to cushion earnings slumps thanks to declining amounts of grain, oil and coal being shipped. [Hot Springs Star]
There is a rich history of rail travel between Denver and Cheyenne, Wyoming even on to Deadwood.

Wyoming highway 59 between Douglas and Gillette is killing people and strangling traffic: passenger rail would bring some order to that chaos. BNSF Railway's Burlington Route connects Cheyenne with Laurel, Montana just west of Billings where it intersects with Montana Rail Link.
BNSF Railway is proposing changes to its operations in Sheridan in response to the declining demand for coal. Company officials indicated in a statement that the changes will likely include shifting Sheridan crew jobs to Gillette over time. The proposed changes also include having Gillette replace Sheridan as the home terminal for trains that run between Gillette and Laurel, Montana. [Casper Star]
The Burlington Northern Santa Fe has strong rail connecting Laurel and Great Falls with Amtrak's Empire Builder at Shelby, Montana.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) wants to restore the Hiawatha Line and a Montana legislator wants BNSF to rebuild that track, too.

Imagine a time when portions or all track is elevated for wildlife egress through a future corridor between the Canadian River in New Mexico and the Amtrak station in Shelby then on to the Yukon River in Alaska intersecting with a tunnel under the Bering Strait connecting South and North America to Russia and the rest of Eurasia.

As coal dies and more commodities are being shipped by trucks burning cheaper fuel flowing through pipelines the timing for increased passenger rail is at hand. Curious why the Postal Service and Amtrak have not formed a strategic partnership.

It's time for Amtrak to connect the Empire Builder with the Southwest Chief through Denver perhaps integrating New Mexico's Rail Runner in the interim.

Who's with me?

1 comment:

larry kurtz said...

Steve Hickey has been gracious enough to host comment on passenger rail service, or the lack of it, at his Facebook page. These are my offerings:

I have been following developments in Belle Fourche where the RCPE has built a rail park. Halliburton's bentonite plant in Colony, served by RCPE, and the BNSF main line in Gillette, Wyoming is just a few miles over private and BLM ground. It's just a matter of time before that right of way has track laid over it.

South Dakota won't do anything for the tribal nations trapped within its borders: the states and tribes compete for federal resources on a daily basis. New Mexico does a little better job by providing mass transit for some tribal members but NM has 33 counties while SD nurses 65 county seats and their bureaucracies.

Important to remember that FSTB has set a speed limit of 78 MPH.

The bridge over the river at Chamberlain can only handle light loads at this time not to mention the condition of the track bed from Kennebec to Rapid City but the Milwaukee Road operated the Sioux there until 1951. South Dakota needs two east/west freight lines like it needs another 4-year college. The Keystone Pipeline is untenable West River because the Cretaceous Shale moves so much. That's why I90 is always under construction from Wall to Kennebec.

Fact is: bus service is probably the best and most affordable way to transport reservation occupants to bigger towns like Rapid City, Aberdeen and Sioux Falls. The Standing Rock shops in Bismarck mostly...this is until North Dakota declared them criminals. The bad news is that CRST has to go to Pierre for larger purchases.

When Democratic New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson found the money to build the Rail Runner it was intended to serve communities from El Paso to Denver but that never materialized and if Susana Martinez had her way it would be decommissioned because it goes in the hole every year. I have been shoving the legislature to equip it to operate as designed even as Colorado sorts out ways to add service between Trinidad and Denver. The BNSF, who owns the track, has been, to put it mildly, less than helpful. At over 8000 feet Raton Pass is a major obstacle that even Amtrak struggles to overcome.

When Mike Rounds got Amtrak money he pilfered it for a state plane then whined when Pierre lost its air subsidy.