When I learned that BNSF Railway wanted to build a second bridge over Lake Pend Oreille in North Idaho, it seemed like an obvious choice. As it turns out, what is good for Washington is good for the entire Northwest.
The proposal would add a second bridge over the lake to increase capacity and modernize a route that moves people and products from Chicago to Seattle, right through Spokane.
As it stands now, trains on the existing line must wait while BNSF manages rail traffic. The route has exceeded existing capacity and a second bridge would help ease that congestion. It would be built just 50 feet away from the existing parallel track.
Trains, even in today’s modern world, remain the backbone of our trade-based economy. BNSF employs hundreds in the Inland Northwest, providing a source of family-wage jobs that have their own economic multiplier effect in communities all along the rail route.
As the most trade-dependent state in the nation, Washington state relies on a modern network of transportation infrastructure. The Sandpoint Junction Connector represents significant private investment in a major rail route that is vital to hundreds of industries throughout the Pacific Northwest. From agriculture to aerospace, businesses rely on rail for the safe and efficient transport of raw and finished products to market. This system is the direct result of multiple private investments designed to meet market demand, commodity supply and customer need. It will address many of the chokepoints that slow the transport of goods we use in our everyday lives.
Without a second rail line, it will be tougher to get perishables like our world-class apples, cherries and wheat to market – and that directly impacts our ranchers, growers and farmers. The same can be said for manufacturers of aerospace products, machinery and other products that rely on rail to reach foreign and domestic markets.
In fact, for all of our modes of transportation, rail remains the safest, most effective way to move products on land. This is particularly true of products like coal and oil: Railroads are four times more efficient than semitrailers, and no one wants to add more congestion to our highways. Proposals like the Sandpoint Junction Connector would allow for the continued safe transport of these materials in the most efficient way possible.
Some will challenge the project because coal and oil are carried on these lines. But when almost half of all consumer goods are moved by rail, a slowdown in our rail system would have definite impacts on what we eat, wear and buy on a daily basis. This is a much bigger issue, one we all have a stake in.
The BSNF proposal represents a significant private investment in our trade infrastructure at a time we most need it, benefiting both freight and passenger traffic throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Sen. Michael Baumgartner represents the 6th Legislative District in Spokane.
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