Question: "No rail link between St. Paul and Minot because of Devils flooding," read the headlines. Here's what I would like to know: Why is the Surry Cutoff, which was used in the old Great Northern Empire Builder days, never mentioned? That is a straight shot between Fargo and Minot. They are still running freight daily on that line.
Answer: For most of June and all of July, there's been no riding the rail west of the Twin Cities on Amtrak's popular Empire Builder line due to flooding, first at Devils Lake and then at Minot, both in North Dakota. Such a long delay is frustrating, but a simple shift to another line isn't really so simple.
The line you mention is one of the two primary routes across the northern states, so it is very busy with freight trains, said Marc Magliari, spokesman for Amtrak. "When we have detoured over it in the past, we've encountered lengthy delays," he said.
"Both the regular (Amtrak) route through Grand Forks, and the detour route, which goes through no major towns, are being repaired," after Minot was hit with flooding, Magliari said. The two lines each run through that town. The rail lines are owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad; Amtrak leases the right to run on the rails.
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The Empire Builder has discontinued service between St. Paul and Havre, Mont.; it continues to run between Chicago and St. Paul, and between Portland, Ore., and Seattle and Havre. Amtrak hopes full service is restored by the end of the month. Passengers with travel plans on the route should call 1-800-872-7245 or go to www.amtrak.com for updates. The home page currently has an "alert " link to the Midwest and West service disruptions.