COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho -- Union Pacific railroad has broken ground on an $11 million, 95-mile improvement project in northern Idaho that is expected to reduce traffic congestion and help improve the environment.

The project runs from Athol to Eastport at the Canadian border and is part of a $3.6 billion Union Pacific plan this year to improve its 32,000-mile network.

Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt tells the Coeur d'Alene Press that expanding the fuel efficient freight rail service will help keep the environment clean.

The trains also reduce the amount of freight trucks on the roads, clearing space for motorists.

Hunt also says the project will boost the regional economy, though the railroad has not done an economic study to determine just how much.

Construction is expected to conclude in late June.

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