September 2019 • The latest from the Pacific Northwest
U.S. Coast Guard Green Lights Sandpoint Bridge Project
After a robust and comprehensive permitting process, the U.S. Coast Guard issued the final Environmental Assessment (EA) for BNSF Railway’s Sandpoint Junction Connector Project, finding that the bridge construction would have no significant environmental impact.
The project will construct a second bridge over Lake Pend Oreille adjacent to the existing rail bridge, reducing congestion and moving current and future freight and passenger traffic more efficiently, and limiting the need for trains to idle while waiting to cross the existing single track. Drivers could also see shorter wait times on nearby roads and streets that cross BNSF tracks.
BNSF began upland work in early September on railroad property that lies between Sand Creek and Dog Beach. In-water work is anticipated to begin in mid-October, pending final coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Learn more at https://keepsandpointrolling.com/.
BNSF Leads the Way in Drone Technology
Railways might not come to mind when thinking of companies that utilize drone technology, but BNSF has been a leader in employing drones for years.
BNSF first used drones in 2015 to monitor service interruptions during a flood event in Valley View, Texas. Since then, our drone capabilities have advanced with the help of our partner, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) who recently granted BNSF a national exemption, allowing us to expand our drone operations.
A key area where BNSF employs drones is beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights, in which the unmanned aircraft is flown out of the view of the pilot, who monitors the drone from a remote location. In addition to checking service interruptions, drones allow BNSF to build on our robust safety record and increase efficiency in railroad operations by detecting issues early. During previous extreme flood events, BNSF staff often physically walked to the impacted track to make assessments and develop a recovery plan. Drones streamline that process and provide a look at areas that are difficult to access. This was particularly handy during this year’s historic flooding in the Midwest. Learn more at www.bnsf.com/news-media/railtalk/safety/bnsf-drone.html.
Innovation on Display for Fallbridge Subdivision Bridge Replacement
BNSF recently completed a “float out, float in” bridge replacement project to install a new bridge on the Fallbridge Subdivision in Home Valley, WA. This innovative process has only been completed a few times and required extensive coordination and planning throughout a three-year process.
The new bridge—a 260-foot through truss—was erected on a barge in Portland, OR. From Portland, the bridge traveled through a handful of notable and challenging locations: east on the Columbia River and into the Columbia River Gorge, through the North Bonneville Lock and Dam, under the Bridge of the Gods and eventually raised approximately 30 feet from the barge to its final location in Home Valley. Overall, the bridge’s journey took 24 hours.
The “float out, float in” approach has a smaller environmental footprint than other bridge building processes, limiting the impact on marine life and fishermen in the area. The project is another example of BNSF’s commitment to safety by ensuring reliable infrastructure. To watch the bridge’s journey, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PHSHRyWrms.
Protecting Industrial Lands is Critical to Washington State’s Economy
Washington State’s transportation system has been the foundation of the state’s economy from the early days continuing into the modern era. The Evergreen State is fortunate to have assets that provide a competitive advantage over other areas of the country: natural deep water ports, one of the largest river systems in North America, a leading freight rail network and two intersecting interstate highways that provide access to the rest of the country.
Industrial lands are key to Washington State’s strong and diverse economy. They help provide family-wage jobs and allow for the delivery of goods and services we all depend on daily. These services and jobs are intrinsically tied to industrial lands, and to guarantee Washington goods can get to market, it’s crucial that industrial lands be preserved. Ports and railroads can’t relocate their operations; they either succeed or fail, taking jobs in the process.
To learn more about the importance of industrial land preservation, read an op-ed published in The Lens by BNSF’s Andrew Johnson and Bruce Agnew. Johnson is BNSF’s Vice President of Community Affairs; Agnew is the Director of Cascadia Center and the ACES NW Network.
Supporting our Communities
The BNSF Railway Foundation invests in the communities across the 28 states through which BNSF operates, and where BNSF employees live, work and volunteer. Recent donations include:
Providing After-School Youth Services
The BNSF Railway Foundation proudly supports services that help youth realize their full potential. Last year, the foundation awarded $2,500 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Columbia Basin to expand programming into three additional elementary sites serving more youth during critical after-school hours. Over a year, daily attendance at the after-school programming increased by nearly 200 children, many whom are economically disadvantaged.
Inspiring Independent Filmmaking
Set in the scenic city of Bend, Oregon and running from October 10-13, the BendFilm Festival will present 45 feature films at iconic locations across this community of cinephiles who proudly support the last standing Blockbuster on Earth. The festival will award over $10,500 in prizes directly to independent filmmakers. The BNSF Railway Foundation is a proud supporter.
Encouraging Educational Playtime in Pierce County Play to Learn is a free program at the Children’s Museum of Tacoma that facilitates playtime between children and adults in over 22 community locations across Pierce County. Curriculum encourages individual play, fun group activities, songs and group circle time for all ages to enjoy together. The BNSF Railway Foundation recently donated $5,000 to this instructional program.
Supporting Housing for Survivors
The BNSF Railway Foundation supports at-risk and underserved populations, including survivors of domestic violence. The foundation recently donated $5,000 to the Home Safe program, organized by Seattle-based domestic violence service New Beginnings. Home Safe helps survivors find new, affordable housing and helps them retain their own housing. Home Safe also offers short-term residential housing and emergency hotel stays for safety and confidentiality.
Assisting Local Law Enforcement
The Klickitat County Sheriff’s Office will incorporate a new K-9 unit into its ranks thanks in part to a $10,000 donation from the BNSF Railway Foundation. Funds will go toward a six-week training course for the newest recruit and its handler, who will become a certified patrol canine team upon completion.
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].