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Cold weather, oil shipments, cause Amtrak delays in Wisconsin

UNDATED (WSAU-Wheeler News)  An Amtrak passenger train that goes through Wisconsin is getting disrupted more often. A riders' group says part of the problem is massive rail shipments of crude oil from North Dakota.

The National Association of Railroad Passengers says it's gotten so bad, it's asking U-S Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to intervene. Another problem is the cold-and-snowy winter. Westbound Amtrak trains bypassed several stops in North Dakota this week, and used buses to get riders to their destinations. That caused delays of up to 10 hours.

Amtrak's Empire Builder -- which runs from Chicago through Wisconsin to Seattle -- uses a Burlington Northern-Santa Fe route that has seen higher oil shipments from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and Montana. Amtrak and the B-N-S-F have had talks on resolving the delays -- but oil freight companies have told Amtrak not to expect improvements for months.

Ross Capon, head of the railroad passengers' group, says the delays are intolerable. In his words, "Crude oil is being given priority over people." The Empire Builder is Amtrak's most popular long-distance overnight train. Its Wisconsin stops are at Milwaukee, Columbus, Portage, Wisconsin Dells, Tomah, and La Crosse.