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U.S. Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) on Monday hosted a roundtable in Fargo, N.D., with BNSF Railway Co. Executive Chairman Matt Rose and agriculture industry stakeholders in the state to discuss the railroad's efforts to relieve its ag product shipment backlog and upgrade infrastructure in North Dakota.Earlier this year, Hoeven secured a commitment from BNSF to spend $400 million on infrastructure improvements in North Dakota to expand capacity for shippers, replace and maintain portions of its network, and continue implementing positive train control, the senator said in a press release.BNSF recently reported improvements in some of its performance metrics and the completion of significant track expansions, the senator said. As of Nov. 1, the railroad had 3,334 cars outstanding to ag shippers that were an average of 15 days late compared with about 4,000 past-due cars that were an average of 22 days late in early August."We have been pushing BNSF to make the kinds of capital investments necessary to serve North Dakota’s growing and dynamic economy," said Hoeven, adding that he's been working with the Class I since spring to address shipment delays.The roundtable followed a similar meeting in August during which Hoeven pressed Rose to resolve ag shipment issues and hear directly from the state’s agriculture commodity groups about ways to better serve their needs. BNSF committed to spot 450 cars per day and offer more shuttles in fall than the railroad provided in 2013 to relieve past-due shipments, said Hoeven.Meanwhile, BNSF soon will begin to boost train speeds through Devils Lake, N.D., to improve operational efficiency after reaching an agreement with the city.In summer, the railroad informed city officials that it planned to double the current 30-mph limit on a more than one-mile segment of track beginning in August. After city officials and the state’s congressional delegation raised safety concerns, Hoeven worked with BNSF to delay the plan and continue discussions with city leaders.The city recently voted in favor of doubling the train speed in stages over the next few months, beginning with a boost to 45 mph. In exchange, BNSF agreed to implement certain safety improvements, such as installing an eight-foot-high fence along part of the track and gates at a pedestrian crossing.
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