August 9, 2023

BNSF’s Sandpoint Junction project finally completed


After what BNSF describes as preparations of more than a decade, BNSF’s Sandpoint Junction connector bridge in Idaho is finally open and running, enabling two-way traffic across Lake Pend Oreille and thereby reducing both area congestion and idle times for trains.

The western U.S. Class I railroad ran an inaugural train over the new bridge on Sunday. 

BNSF (NYSE: BRK-B) said the final configuration — a new bridge plus an existing bridge that has been rehabilitated by BNSF — will allow for rail traffic on both bridges. 

In addition to the new bridge and the modernization of the old bridge, the project also included the construction of new bridges over Sand Creek and Bridge Street in Sandpoint. 

The view toward the bridges. (Photo: BNSF)

“The upgrades help reduce congestion and 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,” BNSF said in a news release. 

Construction on the second bridge had begun in 2019. The two bridges are parallel to each other and are approximately 50 feet apart. 

The second bridge was completed in late 2022, and rail service began last November, which BNSF said was a year ahead of schedule. Once the new bridge was functioning, BNSF started modernizing the old bridge, which was built in 1904. 

“The completion of this bridge is a big win for our customers and the community, especially before the start of the fall harvest season,” John Cech, BNSF vice president of engineering, said. “This milestone is thanks to many team members spanning across multiple departments who collaborated to help improve the consistency of our service. This bridge will be critical moving forward to address our long-term growth and will allow us to meet customer expectations for the next century or more.”

The Sandpoint project was the final piece of double track between Sandpoint, Idaho, and Spokane, Washington, on BNSF’s Northern Transcon, according to the project’s website.

BNSF at Sandpoint, Idaho. (Photo: BNSF)

BNSF first submitted its plans for the project to state agencies in December 2017, with the Idaho Department of Lands approving BNSF’s permit application in June 2018. Following that, BNSF sought approvals from the U.S. Coast Guard and th U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

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The second annual F3: Future of Freight Festival will be held in Chattanooga, “The Scenic City,” this November. F3 combines innovation and entertainment — featuring live demos, industry experts discussing freight market trends for 2024, afternoon networking events, and Grammy Award-winning musicians performing in the evenings amidst the cool Appalachian fall weather.

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