Havre Daily News
The rails east of Havre are getting an upgrade as part of a large, $15 million maintenance project. BNSF Railway workers are using high-tech equipment to replace 82,000 wooden rail ties and 15 miles of rail.
The work is being done along an 80-mile stretch that begins 13 miles east of Havre and ends east of Malta. The entire stretch will be surfaced, which means the track will be raised and leveled by computerized machinery to ensure a smooth ride. The stretch includes 54 crossings.
"This is to ensure safety and enhance customer service," BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said Friday in a telephone interview from Seattle.
The work began June 13 and will conclude July 18, Melonas said. BNSF has brought in 250 employees - members of two regional rail gangs and two regional tie gangs - to do the job, with help from area crews. While the work is being completed, those employees are sleeping in hotels in Havre and Malta, he added. Local crews also are assisting in the work, he said.
The crews are working from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day, Melonas said. During that maintenance window, no freight traffic is moving along the corridor, which generally sees 50 trains in a 24-hour period. Some of the freight traffic is being held up, while other trains are being rerouted along Montana's southern rail corridor.
Amtrak trains have not been delayed because of the work, Melonas and Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said.
"Any delays we are seeing are not due to this project," Magliari said.
Magliari said the work is an instance of the good relationship between Amtrak and BNSF.
"It's another example of it being a great host railroad," he said. "We're proud of our relationship with BNSF."
Melonas said ties usually need to be changed out every eight to 10 years. Rail has a longer life expectancy, which can change based on a variety of factors - including curvature and load weight. This project is part of BNSF's maintenance cycle, he said.
"We have a program where we make routine upgrades. This was scheduled maintenance," Melonas said.