Railroad officials don't know exactly when it will happen but with Devils Lake on the rise, Amtrak passenger service to Rugby, Devils Lake and Grand Forks is expected to suspend temporarily. It would suspend if two bridges in the Devils Lake area no longer can be used.
However, Amtrak's Empire Builder service between Minot and Fargo will remain but it will be on an alternate route bypassing Rugby, Devils Lake and Grand Forks which Amtrak serves on its normal route.
"Devils Lake won't stop rising," said Marc Magliari, a spokesman for Amtrak in Chicago. "The state has some optimism that an additional pumping station will go into service next year, which might bring the lake down or stabilize it. But that's a year away," he said.
Eloise Ogden/MDN • The Amtrak depot in Minot temporarily might be the last stop for eastbound Amtrak passenger service which normally serves Rugby, Devils Lake and Grand Forks. Amtrak will have to detour those cities if two bridges can’t be used in the Devils Lake area but there would be bus service for awhile.
He said Amtrak will stay on the present route for as long as Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which owns the tracks, will allow it.
"The bridge at Churchs Ferry is at some risk," Magliari said. "When that bridge is taken out of service and we no longer can operate over it, then we'll detour between Minot and Fargo," he said.
"We intend to keep operating until they tell us we can't," he added.
Amy McBeth, a spokeswoman for BNSF in St. Paul, Minn., said there's also a bridge west of Devils Lake as well as several miles of track that are affected by the rising lake levels. She said both bridges are on the route between Devils Lake and Churchs Ferry.
When BNSF bridge inspectors are unable to inspect the bridges, the route will be out of service for Amtrak, McBeth said.
She said BNSF is planning and preparing for Amtrak to operate on an alternate route on an interim basis. "This is our route from Fargo to Minot through New Rockford," McBeth said Wednesday. The route is BNSF Railway's KO Subdivision.
"I don't want to speculate on when this will occur. It depends on the weather but BNSF is working with Amtrak to accommodate their passenger service on an alternate route for an interim period," McBeth said.
McBeth said for more than a year BNSF has not used the route through Rugby, Devils Lake and Grand Forks to serve its freight customers and Amtrak is the only user of that route.
If the bridges are closed, Magliari said Amtrak will provide service with chartered buses.
"If we can't operate on the normal route for some period of time, (for) about a month, we will operate chartered buses that will come out of Minot and go over to Rugby, Devils Lake, Grand Forks and then go down to Fargo. Likewise, the other direction," he said.
But he said Amtrak would not be able to offer chartered bus service for a long time because of the expense.
Magliari said a longer term fix is about $100 million of upgrades needed to bridges and track in the Devils Lake area. But he said the longer term fix would require federal funds. Amtrak is working with the North Dakota Department of Transportation on the plan.