February 2019 • The latest from the Pacific Northwest
BNSF plans $175 million capital program in Washington for 2019
BNSF plans to invest about $175 million in Washington this year as part of the railroad’s capital expenditure program. Much of this year’s capital plan in the state will be for replacing and upgrading rail, rail ties and ballast, which are the main components for the tracks on which BNSF trains operate.
Maintaining rail network infrastructure reduces the need for unscheduled service work that can slow down the BNSF rail network and reduce capacity. Over the past five years, BNSF has invested approximately $1 billion to expand and maintain its network in Washington. This year, the maintenance program in Washington includes approximately 820 miles of track surfacing and/or undercutting work as well as the replacement of about 50 miles of rail and close to 130,000 ties.
In addition to maintenance projects, BNSF plans to install approximately two miles of new double-track along the Fallbridge Subdivision near Wishram.
The 2019 planned capital investments in the state are part of BNSF’s $3.57 billion network-wide capital expenditure program announced earlier this month. These investments include roughly $2.47 billion to replace and maintain core network and related assets, approximately $760 million on expansion and efficiency projects and about $340 million for freight cars and other equipment acquisitions.
We make “big” tasks seem small
Part of the work we do at BNSF is move stuff, and sometimes that stuff is big. REALLY big. Moving those big objects onto railcars to send on a cross-country journey is tricky work. For customers who need wind tower components, giant machinery, airplane fuselages and other oversized loads, we make “big” tasks seem small.
“Big” in this instance refers to an oversized load: a load measuring more than 17 feet tall from the top of the rail and more than 11 feet wide from the center of the railcar. These large loads start with four-axle cars that have a weight of 286,000 pounds and can go up to the gargantuan 36-axle Schnabel, the largest railcar in the world measuring 351 feet in length. For reference, the weight for a four-axle car equals the weight of approximately 22 bull African elephants.
BNSF’s High-Wide team enters the equation whenever the logistics for an oversized load require plenty of oversight. The team selects the route and makes sure the load will clear tunnels, bridges and structures. Planning can take a few months to over a year. Oversized loads are closely monitored from there during its trek, as timing is crucial. Learn more here: https://www.bnsf.com/news-media/railtalk/service/high-wide.html.
Train horns save lives
Too many Americans die each year while trespassing on railroad tracks or disregarding signals at grade crossings. Train crews are mandated by federal law to sound the horn when approaching all public road crossings for the safety of motorists and pedestrians. Horns are required regardless of whether gates or lights are present at road crossings. Locomotive engineers may also sound the horn if a warning is needed for a vehicle, pedestrian or animal that is either on or near the track, or if a road crossing’s gates or lights are malfunctioning. Go to the Operation Lifesaver website at www.oli.org for lifesaving rail safety education.
Thawing the tracks
In rain, shine or deep freeze, BNSF continues to move our customers’ freight. It can be tough for metal track switches to move when temperatures dip well below zero. In order to keep trains moving in the right direction, ice and snow that might be stuck in switches needs to be cleared from the tracks.
But from Minnesota to Washington State, there’s no need for BNSF crews to torch the tracks. Propane-fueled switch heaters automatically blow hot air onto the tracks to thaw them out. Across our rail network, more than 3,000 switch heaters help battle the elements. This winter-preparedness technology allows us to keep rail temperatures above freezing so we can continue to operate safely during inclement weather.
Giving back to our communities
The BNSF Railway Foundation continues to support the communities across the 28 states through which BNSF operates, and where BNSF employees live, work and volunteer. Recent contributions include:
Supporting emergency responders
BNSF Railway Foundation contributed $5,000 to Jefferson County Fire District #1 in Oregon to improve its structure rescue response. The funds allowed the district to purchase specialized equipment to rescue victims trapped on train trestles and other vertical structures. Training has already begun, with the district developing various rescue operations to ensure safety for its residents.
Showcasing Lacey’s heritage
The Lacey Museum’s newest addition, the Lacey Museum at the Depot, will take guests back to the late 19th century with a replica of the Lacey Train Depot. Built in 1891 by the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, the Lacey Depot served as a link to nearby communities around southern Puget Sound. A $5,000 donation from the BNSF Railway Foundation to the PARC Foundation of Thurston County allows for the installment of interpretive signage and materials for the depot replica.
Providing clothes for low-income communities
St. Francis House in Puyallup, WA stocks its shelves with lightly-worn clothes and household items for needy families free of charge. The Clothing Bank Program provided 5,436 individuals with 153,845 items this past year. The BNSF Railway Foundation made a $2,000 donation to support the daily operations and put clothes on people’s backs. Learn more about St. Francis House: www.puyallupfrancishouse.org.
Commitment to supporting Pacific Northwest farmers
BNSF was honored to serve as a sponsor of the Eastern Washington Ag Expo luncheon in Pasco, WA. Manager of Ag Operations Support for BNSF, Roger Hsieh, discussed the $325 million in capital projects over the past two years in the Pacific Northwest. Hsieh thanked farmers, producers and industries whose goods BNSF moves and guaranteed they could “count on BNSF to continue to be the engine that connects us.”
Investing in youth
The BNSF Railway Foundation contributed $5,000 to the East Bonner County Library District to remodel and expand the Sandpoint Library in Sandpoint, Idaho. Funds were utilized to invest in local youth by increasing the number of large-print and young adult books, as well as enhance the children’s area. Since the library’s grand reopening on June 2, 2018, the enlarged space has added more youth programs, increased youth foot traffic and increased literacy rates in the community. More information about the library: www.ebonnerlibrary.org.
Emergencies – Call 800-832-5452
To report a vehicle stalled on a crossing, suspicious circumstances, malfunctioning crossing gates and lights, or any other emergency, call 800-832-5452 immediately.
Have a Question for Us?
Do you have a question about BNSF or rail in the Pacific Northwest that you would like addressed in future issues of Inside Track? Send them to [email protected].