North Dakota Should Build a Rail System Along I-94
I can't think of a better place for a rail system than along I-94 across North Dakota.
A train that runs from Fargo to Medora would be incredibly useful for individuals across the entire state.
Let's first look at the benefits of such a system. Ideally, stops would be located in Fargo, Valley City, Jamestown, Steele, Bismarck, New Salem, and Dickinson.
This would allow people in and near these towns to travel East to West (or vice versa) across the state in the comfort of a train equipped with wifi where you can take care of any business you need to on the go.
We've already established that North Dakota is one of the most dangerous states for drivers. Penalties for driving infractions including DUI are also embarrassingly lenient in the state.
With more people taking the train, we can lessen the two above issues.
The most important aspect of this though is feasibility. Is it feasible to build a rail system? There's essentially two kinds of rail systems that can be put in place. Regular passenger trains (like you might find in the suburbs of New York for those traveling to New York City) will run on tracks that are similar to freight lines and travel at similar to highway speeds but can go up to 110mph
North Dakota has plenty of railroad tracks throughout the state and it is possible to build passenger trains to run on the existing freight tracks. In fact, there is apparently nearly 3,400 miles of freight tracks in North Dakota according to gorail.org
BNSF happens to have a rail track that basically runs through the route which you can find on their website. Granted there are a few gaps in the route so tracks would need to be built to connect them all. There's a few issues with adding passenger trains to this route though.
BNSF owns these tracks. That have complete control over them and complete priority. If a BNSF train is traveling through the area, they have the right of way. The passenger train has to wait for the BNSF train to pass. When you drive a car, you know how annoying it is to wait for those trains that go 5mph and are a mile long.
However, with the passenger trains traveling at 110mph, you can still save time! Right now in a car, at 80mph, you can get from Bismarck to Fargo in about 2.5 hours. On a train going 110mph, the trip could be made in just under 2 hours. Assuming stops are made in Steele, Jamestown, and Valley City on the way though, we can assume about a 2 hour trip total.
The only thing I don't know, is what the cost of this would be. This would require a negotiation process with BNSF to get permission to use the tracks plus you would need to get the trains etc. Plus in the areas, where new track needs to be built to fill in the gaps, you know BNSF won't be paying for that.
The U.S. High Speed Rail Association assisted me in determining all these things. If you're wondering what it would cost for North Dakota to build a new set of tracks, meant for high speed rail, and tracks that would not be controlled by freight, it would cost about $30 million per mile to build that. In other words, from Fargo to Medora, the cost of the tracks would be $9,900,000,000 (that's nine billion, nine hundred million). That's before purchasing the trains and before building train stations in the various cities.
I think we need to get some passenger trains running on those BNSF tracks. It's either that, or try to raise $10 billion. North Dakota officials, it's your move.