Devils Lake, BNSF reach deal allowing increased train speeds with safety improvements

Train speeds were to begin increasing through Devils Lake on Wednesday under a deal between the city and BNSF Railway that also calls for safety upgrades.

The railroad last summer informed the city that it planned to double the current 30 mph limit on a nearly 1½-mile-long section of upgraded track that is rated for 60 mph, beginning in August. City officials and the state's congressional delegation raised concerns. After meeting with U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., in late July, railroad officials agreed to delay the plan and have further discussions with city leaders.

The City Commission on Monday voted to allow for a doubling of train speeds stages over the next few months, beginning with an increase to 45 mph on Wednesday, KZZY radio reported. In exchange, the railroad will make safety improvements including 8-foot-high fencing along part of the track and gates at a pedestrian crossing.

BNSF Railway maintains that the increased speed will improve the efficiency of its trains, and that the move does not necessarily mean that all trains will be traveling that fast through the northeastern North Dakota city.

Mayor Dick Johnson said the city got the best deal it could, given that the railroad could have doubled the speed with no negotiations.

"Our hands were tied," he said. "They had all the cards, really, when you get right down to the final analysis. But they were willing to work with us."

BNSF also will help pay for upgrades to a railroad overpass in the city. The railroad's total contribution for that and the safety projects will exceed $600,000, Johnson said.


Information from: KZZY-FM,