August 26, 2013 in City

BNSF workers repair, replace track on main lines

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Dan Pelle photoBuy this photo

Sparks fly as Randy Hill grinds a new joint weld on the BNSF Railroad line over Latah Creek on Aug. 19 in Spokane. Crews are rehabilitating track throughout Washington as part of a major investment to keep the rails smooth and safe.
(Full-size photo)

Fair warning

Paving work is scheduled to start this morning on Francis Avenue from Market to Freya streets. Drivers should expect slow traffic and possible delays, or they should consider taking an alternate route, officials said.

A rail gang of three dozen workers moved through Spokane last week, repairing and replacing track on BNSF Railway’s main lines as part of a $125 million investment in the railroad’s facilities and equipment in Washington this year.

Nationwide, BNSF this year is investing $4.3 billion in its system, including buying new locomotives, freight cars and other equipment. Last year, the railroad spent $100 million on improvements in the state.

“Rail wears like asphalt and it needs to be upgraded,” said Gus Melonas, regional director of public affairs for the railroad.

The crew last week removed a section of track along Interstate 90 west of downtown and replaced it with 1,600-foot sections of continuous rail. The track was welded in place and the welds ground down to create a seamless connection.

In addition, the crew replaced rail ties and smoothed the existing track surface.

BNSF is making the track upgrades in advance of expected increases in rail shipping in coming years, including coal trains headed for West Coast ports.

In all, nearly 2,800 miles of track in Washington will be rehabilitated this year. Of that, 175 miles will get new track, which is a heavier gauge than the track being replaced. Also, the railroad is replacing 100,000 ties.

The work is being done on main lines running from Spokane to Vancouver, Wash.; to Seattle; to Kettle Falls; and to Sandpoint.

Melonas said regular track maintenance reduces the risk of derailments.

Matthew Rose, chairman and chief executive officer, said in a news release, “Given the importance of a low-cost supply chain to the U.S. economy, our privately funded rail infrastructure is well positioned to help Washington compete in global markets.”

One of the country’s largest shippers, BNSF operates on 32,500 miles of track in 28 states and two Canadian provinces.

One-way Post Street

Post Street north of Spokane Falls Boulevard is being converted to one-way traffic northbound later this year.

The plan calls for a single lane of traffic with a 12-foot bike lane on the east side of the Post Street Bridge.

The change will free up room for angle parking outside City Hall and parallel parking in front of Avista’s Post Street substation. A new sidewalk is being added to the west side of Post Street at the substation.

The additional parking will make up for the loss of metered spaces in the parking lot on the north side of City Hall that is being redeveloped into a public plaza.

At the north end of the Post Street Bridge, traffic will be reconfigured on Lincoln Street from Bridge to Broadway avenues. The current layout of two travel lanes in each direction plus a center turn lane will be changed to one travel lane in each direction and center turn lane. The change will allow installation of parallel parking on both sides in that stretch of Lincoln.

Transit symposium

The 2013 Washington State Public Transportation Symposium is being held in Spokane through Wednesday at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park. More than 200 delegates are expected for the event, which includes a bus-driving “Roadeo” competition on Sunday.

The symposium brings together representatives from various agencies as well as vendors who provide products for public transportation.

Among the speakers is a writer who journeyed from Washington, D.C., to Antarctica, mostly by bus.

Francis work delay

Reconstruction of Francis Avenue from Division to Crestline streets is being delayed until next year, city officials said last week.

The city had been unable to obtain approvals from state and federal transportation agencies soon enough to complete the work this year as had been expected.

The job will include a new water main and handicapped-accessible sidewalks.

Work on rebuilding Francis from Haven to Crestline was finished earlier this year.

Other work

• Riverside Avenue from A Street to Government Way will be closed today through Thursday for resurfacing work. That is the section just west of the Latah Creek Bridge.

• Repaving work is set to start on Sept. 3 on Monroe Street from Rowan to Francis avenues.

• The state Transportation Improvement Board will provide $500,000 in contingency funds to jump-start replacement of the southbound Sullivan Road Bridge. The additional money means work could start early next year on the $15 million bridge replacement.

• In Spokane Valley, Bettman Road from 11th to 14th avenues will have lane reductions and short-term driveway restrictions from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays for work on drainage systems. Also, Sullivan Road bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad lines just south of Marietta is reduced to a single lane in each direction through the end of the month for resurfacing work.

• With shorter days of late summer, the schedule for evening closures of I-90 at Snoqualmie Pass has been changed. The work involves blasting rock as part of a widening project east of the pass. The closures will begin at 6:30 p.m. today through Wednesday.

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