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Investment focus: BNSF’s $4.3 billion 2016 capital expenditure plan.

Posted by Luke Upton on Feb 22, 2016

BNSF employees work on double track capital expansion project in Vaughn, N.M. (Credit: BASF)Operating on 32,500 route miles of tracks, across 28 US states plus three Canadian Provinces, BNSF is one of the largest freight rail companies in the world. Their distinctive orange, yellow and black liveried trains transport everything from grain and agricultural products, through to low-sulphur coal, chemicals and even food and beverages. Today we take a closer look at BNSF’s 2016 capital expenditure plan that is expected to cost $4.3 billion. 

“Our railroad is in the best shape it has ever been,” said Carl Ice, BNSF president and chief executive officer at the announcement of the plan. “Each year, our capital plan works to balance our near term need to regularly maintain a vast network that is always in motion with the longer term demand outlook of our customers. While our customers’ demand outlook has softened in a number of sectors, regular maintenance of our network continues to drive the majority of our annual investments and helps ensure we continuously operate a safe and reliable network."

So where and on what is most of the money going to be spent?

The largest component of this year’s plan is approximately $2.8 billion to replace and maintain BNSF’s core network and related assets to keep its railroad infrastructure in top condition. These projects will go toward replacing and upgrading rail, rail ties and ballast, which are the main components for the tracks on which BNSF trains operate. Keeping the railroad well maintained helps ensure trains can run safely and helps limit the need for unscheduled service outages that can slow down the rail network and reduce capacity.

While this year’s overall plan is $1.5 billion less than was spent in 2015 it includes more than $300 million for continued implementation of positive train control (PTC) and more than $600 million for locomotives, freight cars and other equipment acquisitions. Approximately $500 million of this year’s capital plan is for expansion, including a continuation of projects that were started in 2015, such as installing a new bridge and second track to cross the Pecos River and double track near Fort Sumner, N.M. This year’s projects also reflect various other double track work and additional Centralized Traffic Control signaling that will add capacity and improve efficiency in constrained parts of the network.

SmartRail focuses on three key states for BNSF and where the expenditure plan will focus within them: 

Welders at work maintaining BNSF's 32,500-mile rail network (Credit: BNSF)

New Mexico

The 2016 capital expenditure program in the southern state will be nearly $100 million.

“New Mexico plays an important part in the success of our overall network and the broader economy,” said Steve Curtright, BNSF general manager of operations, Southwest Division. “At BNSF we will always remain focused on operating a safe and reliable network while helping connect products with key consumer markets across our nation and the world.”

BNSF’s maintenance program in New Mexico includes approximately 900 miles of track surfacing and/or undercutting work, the replacement of about 15 miles of rail and more than 195,000 ties, as well as signal upgrades for federally mandated positive train control (PTC). This year’s program follows more than $325 million invested by BNSF in its network in New Mexico over the past three years.

Other capital projects in New Mexico include the continuation of the installation of a new bridge and second track to cross the Pecos River and double track near Fort Sumner. Finishing up the bridge and double track projects in New Mexico will mean that all but four miles of BNSF’s more than 2,000-mile Southern Transcon route connecting the West Coast to major intermodal markets such as

Minnesota

$130 million will be spent in the ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes’

“The size of our operations in Minnesota makes this region important to the success of our overall network and the broader economy. Whether it is moving raw materials headed to manufacturing plants, finished products to retail stores, or passengers riding on Northstar and Amtrak, which operate on our network, we remain focused on operating a safe and reliable network at all times,” said Tom Albanese, BNSF general manager of operations, Twin Cities Division.

BNSF’s maintenance program in Minnesota includes more than 360 miles of track surfacing and/or undercutting work, the replacement of approximately 70 miles of rail and about 375,000 ties, as well as signal upgrades for federally-mandated positive train control (PTC). This year’s program follows more than $550 million invested by BNSF in its network in Minnesota over the past three years.

BNSF employees work on double track capital expansion project in Vaughn, N.M. (Credit: BNSF)

Washington State

The BNSF expenditure here will be nearly $220 million.

“Freight rail is vital to Washington, where nearly 40 percent of all jobs in the state are tied to international trade. Our sizable operations in Washington help connect local businesses with markets throughout the U.S. and around the globe. This region is important to the success of our overall network and the broader economy. Whether it is moving raw materials headed to manufacturing plants, finished products to retail stores, or passengers riding commuter trains, which operate on our network, we remain focused on operating a safe, efficient and reliable network at all times,” said Jared Wootton, BNSF general manager of operations, Northwest Division.

SafeRail 2016 BNSF’s maintenance program in Washington includes more than 1,260 miles of track surfacing and/or undercutting work, the replacement of nearly 70 miles of rail and close to 243,000 ties, as well as signal upgrades for federally mandated positive train control (PTC). This year’s capital projects in the state also include continuing the replacement of the Washougal River bridge in Camas and follow more than $550 million invested by BNSF in its network in Washington over the past three years.

Tom Ondriezek (Director Transportation Training, BNSF) will be joining leading speakers from Amtrak, CSX, Genesee & Wyoming, SEPTA, Beltway of Chicago, and many more at the SafeRail Congress (March 22-23 2016, Washington DC. PLUS! You can attend for free if you are employed by any of the following: Transit, Rail or Bus Operator, Commuter Railroad, Freight Railroad, University or Government Representative. 


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Topics: projects

Luke Upton

Written by Luke Upton

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