BNSF plans new investments in MT tracks

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Montana rail lines will receive $135 million worth of investment from BNSF Railway’s 2018 capital expenditure program.

BNSF owns more than 1,900 miles of active track in Montana, including the cross-state “Hi-Line.” The company says that its annual capital plan, which provides $3.3 billion worth of improvements to the nationwide network, will improve operations in Big Sky Country.

“Maintaining a safe and reliable network is one way BNSF works to keep Montana’s economy moving,” said Jon Gabriel, general manager of operations for the railway’s Montana Division, in a press release.

The railway says that its Montana maintenance program includes 820 miles of track surfacing and/or undercutting work, with plans to replace nearly 60 miles of rail and about 200,000 ties.

BNSF spokesperson Ross Lane told the Daily Inter Lake that “a majority of the maintenance work...will be across the Hi-Line.”

BNSF also plans upgrades to its Kootenai River Subdivision, which runs between Sandpoint, Idaho and Whitefish. These include signal installations that will allow centralized control of rail traffic along the route, which will allow trains to maintain more of their speed when they move onto sidings, Lane said.

Improvements are also coming to the Flathead Tunnel, in the form of new fan motors and a computer for its ventilation system. Lane said that these features will reduce the “flush time” needed to clear train exhaust from the 7-mile-long tunnel.

The railroad is also adding a second 2,000-kilowatt backup generator, which will help power the system when the grid goes down. “With the new generator we’re installing, we would not lose any [train] capacity through the tunnel during a power outage,” Lane said.

The improvements are planned for this year, but the exact schedule remains uncertain, and will likely depend on weather and rail traffic.

Reporter Patrick Reilly can be reached at preilly@dailyinterlake.com, or at 758-4407.

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