Rail lines announce PRB expansion

COAL transport leaders Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe have begun preliminary plans to expand their jointly owned line in the Southern Powder River Basin, the companies announced this week.
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Courtesy Union Pacific.

Donna Schmidt

The $US100 million project, which will be done over the next two years, will add more than 40 miles of third and fourth main line tracks.

Another phase of rail expansion, the addition of 14 miles of third main line track, has been completed and a third phase currently underway to construct 19 miles of third main line will be completed and ready for use in September 2006. The total project for the 75-mile capacity line has a price tag of $US200 million, the cost of which will be shared by UP and BNSF.

“The investment in the joint line is a strategic part of Union Pacific’s coal network operations,” UP president Jim Young said.

“Ongoing infrastructure development improvements in the Southern Powder River Basin will enhance our ability to serve our customers and meet this nation’s energy demands.”

“This joint line project and the magnitude of our investment underscores BNSF’s commitment to this country's coal and power industries,” added BNSF president Matthew Rose.

“The rail, mining and generating industries all need to work together to keep coal a strong part of the nation’s future energy program.”

Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal was enthusiastic about what the news meant for the state’s economy.

“I’m very pleased at this investment in Wyoming infrastructure. I’m also encouraged by the action, which reflects a new level of responsiveness to our need for more rail capacity to move Wyoming coal to market. This project could have a significant impact on our ability to sell Wyoming coal,” Freudenthal said.

Once the joint line improvements are completed, they will enable a coal capacity of more than 400 million tonnes.

BNSF currently has more than 32,000 route miles in 28 US states as well as two provinces of Canada, while UP’s lines run through 23 US states.