- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—North Dakota’s congressional delegation said Monday that the Federal Railroad Administration’s commitment of money for planning rail improvements in the Midwest is a solid move toward improving passenger rail travel.

More than $2.78 million was committed by the FRA to go toward multi-state rail planning in the Midwest.

“That’s split between the states,” said Don Canton, spokesman for Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. “North Dakota will certainly benefit.”

How much of the dollars will be spent in North Dakota is unclear, Canton said. The dollars are to help increase efficiencies in the FRA’s rail passenger network and include updates to cost and trip data as well as new mapping features for passengers.

Hoeven said in a release that he was pleased with the funding, and, as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he would continue to push for additional funding to improve rail.

“We need more accurate planning for passenger rail in North Dakota and throughout the Midwest so that we can operate rail more efficiently. This is an investment in rail infrastructure and will help make the overall system run more smoothly,” Hoeven said.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said in a statement that she has also pushed for rail improvements, including hosting a conference late last year on improving rail shipments.

“Today’s investment in the future of our railway safety and security will help make sure our state can provide the infrastructure we need to expand our rails while keeping our passengers and our products safe,” Heitkamp said.

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., gave his approval for the funding in a release, saying it would help stakeholders in the region improve their organization and long-term planning.

“Access to passenger rail is vital to many citizens in North Dakota. This program helps federal and state governments develop a long-term strategy to meet the passenger railway needs of North Dakota and the region,” Cramer said.

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(c)2015 The Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, N.D.)

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