BNSF’s ‘Sandpoint Junction Connector Project’ Hearings Are Well Attended and Upbeat


Wednesday, May 23, the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) held public hearings on the application received from BNSF Railway Co. to construct a second train bridge adjacent to and west of the existing train bridge across Lake Pend Oreille and Sand Creek.

Two sessions were held that day, the first at Ponderay Events Center at 8 AM and the second at Sandpoint Middle School Gymnasium at 6 PM. Both locations did well with the daytime turnout being steady and the evening location being well attended by a crowd interested in municipal, state, federal and civic comments.

Spokesmen from the Idaho Department of Lands, Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Coast Guard all testified with their agencies’ approval. Particularly interesting in the testimonies was the acknowledgment by Idaho Department of Lands Division Administrator Diane French that the right of way is owned by BNSF and was granted to its predecessor, The Northern Pacific, in 1864.

Further reviews will be required for this vital decision. It should be noted that this endeavor will require no state or federal taxes and the entire construction cost will be borne by BNSF Railway.

The IDL extended the public comment period to May 23. By law, IDL is required to accept public comments for 30 days, but the comment period will be open for close to 90 days to give the public, agencies, and neighboring landowners more time to evaluate the application and submit comments.

The IDL will accept all public comments on the application. Comments can be e-mailed to comments@idl.idaho.gov or submitted through the IDL website at this link: https://www.idl.idaho.gov/comment.html

The application, public comments received, and other information are available for viewing on the IDL website at this link: https://www.idl.idaho.gov/lakes-rivers/lake-protection/index.html

The IDL administers the Idaho Lake Protection Act and regulates encroachments and activities on, in, or above the navigable lakes in the State of Idaho, including Lake Pend Oreille. BNSF Railway Co. must obtain a permit from IDL under the Idaho Lake Protection Act and corresponding administrative rules before project construction.

BNSF said in a statement on the project website that “The upgrade will reduce congestion, and help move our current freight traffic and future volumes more efficiently; this benefits all the products we carry and the passenger trains that run on our main line.

“When the second bridge is completed, trains will run in both directions, reducing the need to idle while waiting to cross the existing single track. As a result, local drivers could see shorter wait times on nearby roads that cross BNSF tracks, and the flow of freight and passenger trains will be improved throughout the region.”

ABOUT BNSF RAILWAY

Idaho State Rep. Sage Dixon was the evening hearing’s moderator

BNSF Railway reports that it is one of North America’s top transporters of consumer goods, agricultural products, industrial products, energy, housing materials, automobiles, food, and beverages.

BNSF is also one of the most technologically advanced and efficient railroads in the industry. It works continuously to improve the value of the safety, service, energy, and environmental benefits they provide to their customers and the communities they serve.

In Idaho BNSF as 337 employees a combined payroll of $24,950,594 and 106 route miles.