BNSF has set a $2.99 billion capital plan for 2021, with the largest portion going toward maintaining the core network and related assets, the railroad reported Jan. 20. The 2020 plan, at $3.08 billion, followed a similar strategy.
Here is the 2021 investment breakdown:
• $2.41 billion will be used for maintenance, including nearly 11,000 miles of track surfacing and/or undercutting work, the replacement of 428 miles of rail and approximately 2.6 million ties, and rolling stock maintenance.
• $400 million for expansion and efficiency projects. On its Southern Transcon route between the West Coast and the Midwest, BNSF will continue a multi-year effort to add several segments of new double-track in eastern Kansas. When complete, the Class I railroad said it would have 50 more miles of track to support traffic growth.
“This will give us better consistency, it will give us additional capacity across the Southern Transcon for all of our customers, and it will also give us great redundancy for our premium network,” President and CEO Katie Farmer told attendees of the Midwest Association of Rail Shippers’ (MARS) virtual meeting, which was held just hours after the capital plan was announced.
BNSF will also keep up work on a multi-year bridge project near Sandpoint, Idaho, to boost train capacity. “Once we have this second bridge span across Lake Pend Oreille, we will be able to much more efficiently move our freight consistently across our Northern Transcon, from Chicago to the Pacific Northwest, as well as coming off the central and southern parts of our network,” Farmer said during the MARS meeting. The project is slated for completion by 2024.
• $180 million for freight car and other equipment acquisitions.
On the technology side, BNSF will continue to implement movement planner in the dispatching center, Farmer told MARS meeting attendees. Additionally, Positive Train Control (PTC) implementation will continue on non-federally mandated subdivisions. The reason, Farmer said, is “we believe that every train that operates with PTC is a safer train.” (PTC was in operation on all 57,536 required U.S. freight and passenger railroad route-miles, on Dec. 29, 2020, ahead of the federal deadline of Dec. 31, 2020.) The railroad will also keep looking at tools to help its first and last mile customers better manage their fleets.
“Every year through our capital plan, we work to ensure we are able to continue to operate a safe and efficient rail network, provide our customers with the level of service they have come to expect from BNSF as well as position ourselves for future growth opportunities,” Farmer summed up during the capital plan announcement.