Forget the Kennedy Expressway during rush hour; Chicago's railroads are worse:
Come to the west side of Chicago to
find out why a power plant in Michigan is short of coal and a
biodiesel maker in Brewster, Minnesota, can’t get enough grain.
The answer is found near Western Avenue, where rail cars
from Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. (ADM), the largest U.S. publicly
traded ethanol producer, rest idle on the track above the Dwight
D. Eisenhower Expressway. A short drive away a burnt orange,
yellow and black locomotive from Warren Buffett’s BNSF railway
sits on an overpass as motor traffic is snarled below.
They can’t move because increasing oil production from
North Dakota’s Bakken field, a record grain crop and
unprecedented cold weather overwhelmed the U.S. railroad system.
In part because of transport delays, coal inventories were down
26 percent in January from a year ago. A quarter of all U.S.
freight rail traffic passes through Chicago, or 37,500 rail cars
each day. The trip through the city can take more than 30 hours.
This has pushed up coal prices and cut coal consumption, which Bloomberg sees as a problem but I'm not so sure actually is. Also, BNSF is spending $5 billion on service upgrades near the oil fields, including adding 500 locomotives, 5,000 rail cars, and 300 crew members.