BNSF Railway is doubling up on last year’s track improvements in the Inland Northwest.
In Washington, the railroad plans to spend $235 million to expand rail capacity as well as replace and perform maintenance on its main line tracks.
It is part of a $1 billion investment the railroad is making on what it calls its northern corridor between the Pacific Northwest and Chicago.
That line has become increasingly busy in recent years with shipments of coal and oil from North Dakota, Wyoming and Montana. Energy-carrying trains are seen daily in the region.
In Washington, much of the work is concentrated in the Spokane region, said Gus Melonas, a BNSF regional spokesman.
He said 42,000 rail ties were installed so far this year on the main line from Spokane to Wenatchee.
In addition, double-track layouts are being installed along the line to Wenatchee as well as the line to Pasco, Melonas said. The second track installation southwest of Spokane is occurring mainly between Cheney and Mesa.
Double track is also being installed near Tokio on the line to Wenatchee.
In all, maintenance in Washington will refurbish 1,200 miles of track, with about 60 miles being fully replaced. A total of 113,000 ties are also being installed.
Last year, BNSF spent $125 million on track work in Washington and $100 million in 2012.
A news release from BNSF headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, said the railroad is investing $5 billion this year across its network through 28 states and two Canadian provinces with a total of 32,500 miles of track.
Carl Ice, BNSF president and CEO, said in the news release, “Our capital investments along the Northern Corridor are critical to expanding our capacity to support the region’s rapidly growing economy, improving our ability to meet our customers’ expectations and ensuring our railroad remains the safest mode of ground transportation for freight.”
Melonas said the railroad is planning to hire 40 workers each in Spokane and Pasco among 550 new hires in Washington state.
He also said rail volumes are growing, but are still below their peak in 2006.
Road closures and traffic changes
• In Spokane Valley, Eighth Avenue at Carnahan Road will be reduced to a single lane Monday through Wednesday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. for paving. Signs and flaggers will direct traffic.
• On the North Spokane Corridor, paving and signal work at Francis Avenue and Freya Street will result in traffic restrictions from 5 p.m. Wednesday night to 8 a.m. Thursday.
• Work is starting today on U.S. Highway 2 in the vicinity of Airway Heights and continuing west to Espanola Road. The state is installing a new signal light at Flint Road. On May 12, the work will shift to evening and overnight hours. The 12-mile project is being done under a $5.1 million contract with Inland Asphalt Co., of Spokane.
• In Spokane, a paving project on North Cedar Road from Country Homes Boulevard to Walnut Street will force closure of the route from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Friday. Five Mile Road is being used as a detour.
• Francis Avenue from Division Street to Crestline Street has one lane of traffic in each direction during a major project to rebuild the roadway. The $3.1 million job includes installation of handicapped ramps at intersections.
• A new signal installation at Regal Street and Palouse Highway continues to create traffic limitations. The new signal will serve the Target store opening there this year.
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