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Southern North Dakota Amtrak route could be reinstated


A group advocating for restoration of Amtrak services says a route through southern North Dakota is on a federally-created proposed map of additional service.

The North Coast-Hiawatha Limited route ran from Fargo to Bismarck to Billings. It was discontinued in 1979. That left the state with the northern route – which serves Fargo, Grand Forks, Minot and other cities.

Dan Bilka is the co-founder of the group “All Aboard Northwest” – and director of the Rail Passengers Association. He said there have already been workshops – sponsored by the Federal Railroad Administration – to look at expanding passenger rail routes. And he said the southern route should not have been discontinued in the first place. At the time, the stated reason was low passenger numbers.

"They also, similar to today, had a shortage of equipment," Bilka said. "You can't get more passengers if you don't have the space for them."

Bilka said the key is recognizing people want more services across the nation, and then really build up the capacity, to be able to provide the services.

"Not just for the largest metropolitan areas, such as the Northeast Corridor, or California," Bilka said. "But the critical services needed throughout our region as well."

Bilka said this is not meant as any effort to discontinue the Empire Builder route. He said the region needs both.