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The North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) on Wednesday announced it has partnered with the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) and Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute to update the state rail plan to include a rail safety component.The updated plan will evaluate the state's overall rail system by reviewing railroad conditions, including grade crossings and rail lines; train speeds; existing freight- and passenger-rail demands and future needs; emergency response procedures; tank-car specifications; and economic, safety and environmental impacts on the state.A project steering committee will survey stakeholders and conduct public meetings to gather input for the plan's development. The state rail plan will work in tandem with other rail-related initiatives already underway, including a crude-oil response preparedness report, regional railroad infrastructure report, BNSF Railway Co.'s Great Northern Corridor optimization study, NDDOT's freight plan and a rail safety program."The current rail plan was completed in 2007, and with all the changes that have occurred in our state over the last few years, it is important to seek public input and work closely with railroad providers to update the plan," said NDDOT Director Grant Levi in a press release. "By listening to the public and our rail partners, we will evaluate current trends influencing the rail system within the state and look at ways to enhance rail safety efforts."The North Dakota Legislature is considering the development of a rail safety inspection program to be administered by the PSC. The state rail plan will help inform and direct the PSC's work if the proposed program is approved."The railroads travel through the heart of more than 150 North Dakota communities and are a major engine for our two largest industries, agriculture and energy," said PSC Chair Julie Fedorchak. "This comprehensive state rail plan will examine the system that exists today and identify ways to make it safer and more efficient."