Keep Sandpoint Rolling

Sandpoint Junction Connector Project

Freight rail plays an important role in the regional economy, transporting goods and commodities we all use every day.

To meet the growing needs of the communities we serve, BNSF is proposing to build a second bridge over Lake Pend Oreille, which would be adjacent to the existing rail bridge. The project will also include new bridges over Sand Creek and Bridge Street in Sandpoint.

The upgrade will reduce congestion, and help move our current freight traffic and future volumes more efficiently; this benefits all the products we carry and the passenger trains that run on our main line.

When the second bridge is completed, trains will run in both directions, reducing the need to idle while waiting to cross the existing single track. As a result, local drivers could see shorter wait times on nearby roads that cross BNSF tracks, and the flow of freight and passenger trains will be improved throughout the region.

Existing Sandpoint Bridge

Current single track over Lake Pend Oreille
Current single track over Lake Pend Oreille
  • The current bridge is 4,769 feet long, or about 3/4 of a mile
  • In Sandpoint, BNSF’s mainline track merges with Montana Rail Link, creating a bottleneck of multiple tracks merging into a single track across Lake Pend Oreille
  • Since only one train can cross at a time, trains are often staged, leaving them idling and blocking local roadways while waiting to cross

Key Benefits of Second Bridge

Sandpoint Junction Connector Project Map
  • This project will enhance the movement of freight in the region, reducing congestion and benefiting commerce
  • Trains running in both directions across the bridges will reduce the need for engineers to slow down or stop as they wait for clearance to cross
  • Drivers could see shorter wait times on nearby roads and streets that cross BNSF tracks
  • It is expected that locomotive emissions will be reduced as trains will not be idling as much or “powering up” to resume travel in the Sandpoint area
Sandpoint Bridge aerial rendering
Aerial perspective rendering of proposed double track over Lake Pend Oreille
Sandpoint Bridge rendering from Bridge Street
Rendering of expanded bridge from Bridge Street
Sandpoint Bridge rendering from Hwy 95
Rendering of expanded bridge from Hwy 95

Project Timeline

BNSF work on the bike path tunnel continues in January 2020. Work to-date has included pouring footings for the tunnel and starting placement of nearshore fill material. Upcoming work will include setting the new tunnel and starting the in-water work in Lake Pend Oreille and Sand Creek.

Bike Tunnel

In November 2019, BNSF received final permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Sandpoint Junction Connector Project.

BNSF began upland work the week of September 2, 2019 on railroad property that lies between Sand Creek and Dog Beach. This work includes:

  • Performing roadway work so that we can build site access located off the highway
  • Building temporary and permanent trail construction to ensure that the bike path can be used throughout construction
  • Clearing areas for new trail construction and bridge approaches

After a robust and comprehensive permitting process, the U.S. Coast Guard issued the final Environmental Assessment (EA) and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for BNSF Railway’s Sandpoint Junction Connector Project.

The Coast Guard published public notice 01-19, announcing the availability of a draft Environmental Assessment on February 6, 2019. On April 1, 2019, the Coast Guard extended the comment period for the draft Environmental Assessment to May 1, 2019.

The Coast Guard published two public notices, 05-18 and 06-18, soliciting comments from mariners exclusively related to navigation issues in relation to the project on December 19, 2018.

The Idaho Department of Lands approved BNSF’s permit application on June 22, 2018.

The following BNSF presentation was given at the Idaho Department of Lands public hearings on May 23, 2018.

BNSF formally submitted the permitting packages in December 2017. During the permitting process, BNSF worked with the permitting agencies to address all permit requirements. The permitting agencies drove the process, including opportunities for public comment.

BNSF Plays an Important Role in the Idaho Economy

Lumber on train
  • BNSF helps deliver to Idaho retailers and businesses a wide variety of consumer products, including packaged goods, clothing, appliances, electronics, and automobiles
  • BNSF is one of the largest grain-hauling railroads in the United States, hauling enough grain to supply 900 million people with a year’s supply of bread
  • A new car or truck is loaded onto or unloaded from a BNSF automotive train approximately every 11 seconds

Each year BNSF transports:

  • Enough lumber to build more than 500,000 homes
  • Enough asphalt to lay a single-lane road two times around the equator
  • Enough coiled sheet steel to lay the unrolled coils end to end 12 times between New York City and Seattle
  • More than 1.5 million carloads of freight in Idaho

BNSF In Idaho

Employees: 368
Combined Payroll: $29,813,136
Route Miles: 139

About BNSF Railway

BNSF Railway is one of North America’s top transporters of consumer goods, grain and agricultural products, industrial products, housing materials, automobiles, food, and beverages. Our shipments help feed, clothe, supply, and power American homes and businesses every day.

BNSF is also one of the most technologically advanced and efficient railroads in the industry. We work continuously to improve the value of the safety, service, energy, and environmental benefits we provide to our customers and the communities we serve.