BNSF upgrades to help clear the air in Montana tunnel

RELATED TOPICS: BNSF | WEST | INFRASTRUCTURE
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WHITEFISH, Mont. — BNSF Railway is spending $135 million on its Montana rail network in 2018, part of which will go toward upgrading the ventilation system at Flathead Tunnel, the second longest railroad portal in the United States.

About 50 trains a day use the 7-mile long tunnel located 28 miles west of Whitefish, including Amtrak’s Empire Builder. Since the tunnel’s opening in 1970, the railroad has used a ventilation system to clear locomotive exhaust. According to spokesperson Ross Lane, it can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes to clear the tunnel before the next train can pass. However, in recent years the railroad has struggled with power outages at the tunnel. When that happens, an older generator is used to power the ventilation system but Lane says it can take twice as long to clear out the tunnel.

To eliminate the delays, BNSF is installing at 2,000-kilowatt generator at the tunnel that will maintain the normal level of power regardless of outages. The railroad is also going to be replacing some of the ventilation fans and upgrading the computer system that runs it.

Other projects include signal improvements on the Kootenai River Subdivision between Whitefish and Sandpoint, Idaho, and track upgrade across the state. The railroad plans on replacing 60 miles of rail and about 200,000 ties.

“Maintaining a safe and reliable network is one way BNSF works to keep Montana’s economy moving. Freight rail connects Montana’s farmers and lumber producers with the major U.S. markets, and with exports facilities ready to move their products overseas. Rail is also a vital component of getting the people of Montana the consumer products they need,” says Jon Gabriel, general manager of operations, Montana Division.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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