Having read many articles and letters regarding the pros and cons of having more coal trains rumble through Spokane, I am surprised that a relatively painless solution to the problem of trains blocking roads for extended periods of time has not gained traction.
As a condition for permitting the proposed increased rail traffic, have the railroad construct whatever underpasses are desired by Spokane. This would solve the blockage issue at little or no cost to the city, while providing safer future intersections between city streets and rails. Given the robust financial health of most major U.S. railway companies and the potential here for increased profit, I am reasonably sure BNSF Railway can afford to have some skin in this game.
Scheduling staggered starts of construction of these overpasses as close as possible to the first additional coal train’s passage would ensure that these underpasses would be constructed quickly, with as little disruption to traffic flow as possible.