Rail remains the safest, most efficient, and environmentally friendly means of moving products over land.
As residents of the most trade-driven state in the country, we all need to be paying attention to what’s happening right now, just across the state line, in Sandpoint, Idaho.
At issue is a proposal by BNSF Railway Co. to construct a second rail bridge over Lake Pend Oreille. Those in agriculture, aerospace, wood products, and other trade-dependent industries are acquainted with the bridge, which transports thousands of goods and commodities each day from the Midwest to ports on the West Coast.
Those goods--growing in demand--build homes, feed families, and power the economy in destinations across the nation and the world.
To meet those needs, BNSF is looking to expand its rail line over Sandpoint to address existing capacity issues and plan for future increases. This particular expansion would add a second rail line just 50 feet from the existing rail line, allowing trains to move in both directions. Specifically, it would reduce the time trains have to wait while other trains cross the bridge. This, in turn, reduces congestion, improves air quality, and reduces noise by reducing idle times.
With this second bridge, we also have an opportunity to make a significant investment in our trade infrastructure. Unfortunately, opponents are challenging this second line because of just two commodities: coal and oil. It would be shortsighted to allow objections over two commodities to jeopardize the transport of thousands of others, including food, medicine, timber, computer parts, and other manufactured products we use in our everyday lives.
Infrastructure investments are vital to our ever-expanding trade-based economy. Finding private investors to help fund these improvements is particularly advantageous. This project represents a significant private investment to improve and modernize the BNSF Great Northern Corridor route, benefitting both passenger and freight traffic throughout the Pacific Northwest.
We all share an economic interest in making improvements to rail lines and easing choke points that slow deliveries.
This project aims to not only address rail capacity issues, but also manage train traffic to minimize crossing delays and lower the impacts to
surrounding communities. The new Sandpoint rail line will result in shorter wait times on nearby roads and streets that cross BNSF tracks. Even passenger rail, such as Amtrak, will benefit from the new upgrades. Schedule reliability on the Seattle to Portland and Seattle to Chicago routes would be enhanced with the Sandpoint Junction Connector.
Last but certainly not least: Rail provides more than 4,000 great family-wage jobs across Washington and Idaho. Our future as a global trade leader depends on this and other infrastructure investments.
Todd Mielke is CEO of Greater Spokane Incorporated, the Spokane region’s economic development organization. Kris Johnson is the president of the Association of Washington Business.
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