Slow rail delivery times for construction products like cement and lumber are forcing distributors to ration supplies to builders in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin.
It’s taking three times longer than it did a year ago for the materials to travel there from other parts of the U.S. and Canada, one ready-mix cement distributor told The Saint Paul Pioneer Press.
Increased oil and gas traffic, combined with a rainy spring that delayed jobs involving concrete and problems at cement and fly ash plants have reduced supply and slowed deliveries.
A strengthening economy is partly to blame for the bottleneck, as more demand for construction has strained an already-busy railway system. BNSF Railway told the newspaper it is pouring money into expanding its lines, but builders say they can’t wait for a long-term fix. They might have to, though: With cold weather coming, time is running out to pour concrete. Meanwhile, construction companies—from homebuilders to highway contractors—are finding ways to adapt, as some build storage facilities with the hope of stockpiling off-season inventory for use next spring if the transportation situation doesn’t improve.