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Rail News: Amtrak

Amtrak to adjust Empire Builder route to account for heavy freight-rail traffic

Amtrak will temporarily modify its Empire Builder schedule west of St. Paul, Minn., starting next month to account for chronic freight-train congestion, the railroad announced last week.

Starting April 15, eastbound Empire Builder trains leaving Seattle and Portland, Ore., will originate three hours earlier than the current schedule. The trains are combined leaving Chicago and St. Paul and are separated in Spokane, Wash., with about 90 minutes added to the current westbound schedules between St. Paul and Seattle or Portland, according to an Amtrak press release.

Schedules between St. Paul and Chicago will remain unchanged.

"We are working closely with BNSF Railway Co., which owns the tracks and controls the dispatching of the Empire Builder trains between St. Paul and the West coast, in order to publish a schedule that accounts for the freight train congestion and the condition of the BNSF-owned infrastructure," said Empire Builder Route Director Jim Brzezinski. "We will assess the ability of the BNSF to dispatch the Empire Builder with better reliability on this schedule, with further schedule changes possible in June."

The schedule changes come as BNSF addresses congestion that worsened during the cold winter, the Minneapolis StarTribune reported. Freight trains have slowed Amtrak traffic along the Empire Builder route. BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth told the newspaper that BNSF's capacity expansion along its northern corridor "will benefit all of our freight customers and Amtrak's Empire Builder."

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More News from 3/31/2014