Large Scale Central

BNSF Double Track Project

So something very interesting is going on in my neck of the woods. BNSF has been diligently working to complete a second track through N Idaho and into Washington. It maybe even bigger than that but that is where I live and what I have seen.

They built a brand new huge long bridge over Pend Orielle Lake. They have put in a second track between Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene at least much of the way. In Spokane Valley, WA where I work they have been grading and moving utilities, they have taken up spur lines for eventual realignment into the new double track, they even started a bridge over the Spokane River and had all the temporary iron in place and decked so they could drive cranes across it.

That was four days ago. Today all the temporary iron bridge is dismantlement. All of the materials are being staged to be loaded and removed. The city of Spokane Valley was going to build an under pass under the tracks and that has been put off. There has been one article in the local paper with some very vague information and BNSF is so far being tight lipped other than to say the project has been put on hold indefinitely.

Hard to believe that the millions of dollars already spent is just dead int he water. One explanation offered in the paper is negotiations with the City of Spokane Valley have basically fallen through for the under pass and that was the reason for the stoppage. But I am not buying it. BNSF owns the ROW and they can double track it without the underpass and make it a leave it a level grade crossing. Obviously this isn’t what anyone wants, but I can’t imagine with all they have done that they would let that stop them. So much so that they are going backward not just stopping.

Pictures would illustrate your point.

What would you like a picture of? Its a hundred mile long project. And unfortunately I can’t take a picture of what is happening with the current bridge because it was there last Thursday and by yesterday its all been removed. I can take pictures of it if it would help. But we are talking a big project. And the work building it up has been going on for two years. All there really is to take a picture of would be the nice pretty graded ROW and a pile of iron where the bridge construction was taking place. Not at all opposed to taking pictures just not sure what you would like to see.

My real reason for the post was hoping to see if anyone had any insight into what would cause a company like BNSF to spend millions of dollars over several years to complete a double track mainline that they have wanted for a long time just to very suddenly and abruptly put an indefinite end to it with very little explanation.

Sounds like a government project!

But you didn’t hear that from me. I know nothing - nothing!

Sounds like a land issue and just finalizing a few things before continuing.

No Bob there is a lot more to the story than that article suggests. I know a couple city employees and while the negotiations are part of it there is a lot that is not being told even to the city. For one thing why would you go backwards and remove the work you already had done if there was a plan to proceed. Another thing one of my city friends noted was that the land dispute has nothing to do with the RR. That has everything to do with the city.

Its two separate projects tied into one. BNSF is adding a second track. The city is building an underpass to separate the grades. The city is funded but needs a piece of property which they are taking but hasn’t been finalized. But BSNF could do their project with or without the city. Since it is their ROW they could just build the double track and not separate the grades. So while the city is still negotiating for that hold out property for their underpass and the negotiations with the city for the grade separation are certainly factors, I find it hard to believe this would kill BNSFs motivation to complete the double track. Especially after all the money they have spent to get where they are.

I can see it coming to a halt and then being restarted and I am sure that will happen. But its the “when” question that even the article mentions that I find so odd. Why go backward and remove progress that has been made if there is a reasonable chance it will resume. A lot of work has been done to get where they are and it seems very very strange to stop now when they are so close.

And why be so tight lipped about it? Maybe that’s how the RR plays its cards and this is nothing new. But they are not very forthcoming on telling the city or the media why it halted this project.

Of course I don’t know anything more than what I see and read in an article. I certainly don’t have the foggiest idea how RR companies make decisions or why. I am sure there is some sort of good reason.

One thought we did have, and we are purely guessing, is we are wondering if the Spokane Indian Tribe shut them down. The river they are crossing and at the location where they are crossing it is considered culturally sensitive. Makes me almost wonder if maybe something was unearthed. But again this is only wild baseless speculation and maybe and likely is not a factor.

Could also be something just as simple as letting everything settle in the sub roadbed?

I could get on board with that. But why would they put a temporary steel bridge over the river so they can drive cranes and other equipment over the river to do the bridge work and then remove it all without doing any of the actual work. They have not put any permanent bridge supports in. And again if this was just a routine part of the project, why wouldn’t they have clued the city in so they could schedule with them for the grade separation project? Its the abrupt stop and tight lips that have me and my friends at the city baffled.

Since the project is being pushed into the future, maybe they need the equipment for other projects, and don’t want the temporary bridge to get damaged in any potential spring runoff.

all great theories. I wish we knew. Curiosity is a cat killer. It means nothing to me other than it just bugs me that I don’t know.

I know here on the westside of the state lots of construction projects get delayed for salmon migration season (fall) and then fry releases in the spring.

Is the Spokane River a salmon river?

Nope. Salmon can’t get passed Grand Coulee. And even historically they couldn’t make it over the Spokane Falls. This is above the falls. So I don’t think there is or ever was a fish migration issue.

That’s what I thought as well. But just something that causes problems on this side.

I wonder if it has to do with the double track project(s) around Standpoint. I know they are both connected but maybe the Standpoint project(s) have more priority?

Does any of the BN projects relate to the freeway expansion projects going on in that area?

Got a link to the article?

Same one as the one Bob posted above. That is the only info I can find and even the city employees I talked to said that’s all they know also is what the article said. As for the Sandpoint section I believe its all done. I think from Sandpoint to the State Line is all double tracked now. I could be wrong but I think the only remaining piece is from Stateline to the Spokane River crossing.

There is some pretty substantial stuff that still needs to be accomplished and maybe that is what the hold up is. Right where I work is an overpass over the tracks and it is only wide enough for one track. But they have graded right up to it and the city is already starting the work to rip it out and put in a new over pass that will accommodate the double track.

I don’t know its baffling. Mostly because of the abrupt stoppage and little to no information being conveyed to the city on when they will resume.

I lied. On Google Earth there is still some single track in Rathdrum.

This ties into the Trains magazine article you and were talking about the other day, they had a big write up about fixing the “funnel” I will look at it again and see if any more info is available on it.

Quoting here” last segment of 4 miles from Irvin to just east of Spokane with a new bridge parallel to the 534 ‘ bridge built in 1911” and “Prelim grading done in 2020, full fledged work on the bridge and approaches began 4/2023, with a target completion mid 2025” from the current issue of Trains magazine

this is the Pend Oreille bridge
this is the bridge out of Spokane over Latah Creek
and this is the bridge over Spokane River, near Irving, Wa. No real help , but pictures of what your talking about, if that’s any help

I’ve heard of an EPA bunch that made a project take down a temp piling project that went over schedule and they had to do another “Study” and resubmit before being allowed to restart the work… about 10 months delay…

Strange thing happen with the EPA and navigable waters act get involved…

Just could be…

No doubt anything dealing with state / federal/ probably Tribal and Fish and wildlife , is bound to be full of loopholes

There’s still a bunch of single track north of Sandpoint until Boyer but you probably already know that. I think that’s the next major section to get double tracked.