- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (AP) - Amtrak said Tuesday that it is suspending westbound rail service from Fargo on its Empire Builder line for four months and that passengers traveling on to Grand Forks, Devils Lake and Rugby will have to complete their journeys on buses.

Amtrak said in a statement that the suspension of service is so that BNSF Railway Co. can make repairs to the line, which BNSF owns and Amtrak uses. The repairs are expected to last through Sept. 30.

Passengers traveling to Grand Forks, Devils Lake and Rugby will get off the train in Fargo and take a bus to their destination stations. Passengers who want to head west from the three affected cities will be taken to Minot, where they will board the westbound train.

Eastbound traffic will maintain its usual route along the state’s northern tier.

BNSF is investing $400 million in infrastructure in the state. This includes three siding projects between Grand Forks and Minot and four siding projects between Fargo and Grand Forks. Other work along the route involves installation of new turnouts, high speed surfacing and shoulder ballast cleaning, replacement of ties, rail relay and signal upgrades.

BNSF said the detour will allow crews to speed up the repairs between Fargo and Minot.

Amtrak said it has notified passengers and public officials about the detour. The company’s president and CEO, Joe Boardman, will visit the affected area this week to discuss the delays with North Dakota leaders.

“Local community and business leaders prize the Empire Builder and see Amtrak service as an important public transportation link,” DJ Stadtler, Amtrak’s vice president of operations, said in a statement. “BNSF needs to speed repairs and upgrades in order to return the Empire Builder to its previous reliability as fast as possible.”

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