According to the photographs and description in the Daily Bee (March 1, 2018) of the second bridge that BNSF intends to build over the lake and the Sandpoint beach, the screwing up of our waterfront will be complete.
It all started back in the nineteenth century when the Northern Pacific built their railroad on the Sand Creek peninsula and over the location of the present bridge. That didn’t prevent the people from enjoying the City Beach and boys from swinging out on a rope and diving into the creek.
Then, along comes the state with plans to build a U.S. 95 bypass around Sandpoint along the only logical route, the west side Great Northern tracks. Those stinking cattle trucks and other commercial vehicles would be able to go straight through to and from any distant location without going through town. Those coming to Sandpoint could go directly to schools, homes, industries, and other destinations without cluttering downtown streets, unless that was where they were headed.
But “no!“ The downtown merchants were alarmed about the possibility that travelers would not stop in town to buy some chewing gum, or whatever, and Sandpoint would become another Ritzville. They argued that with a Sand Creek bypass, they could see the Mary-Ann behinds of the downtown stores and turn back from an exit. Nobody seemed to figure that Sandpoint is a destination. The alarmists convinced the state to designate the Sand Creek route for the bypass, and when a new railroad bridge was built north of town, it provided for a four-lane bypass below, a bypass with room enough for only two lanes at the south end.
Unfortunately, some greedy politicians played upon those fears. One owned a large property in the vicinity of the original, state-proposed bypass route. He got himself elected mayor, and whenever the bypass issue came up, he failed to recuse himself. And he refused to refer the bypass matters to the Planning Commission, that he knew was 100 percent opposed to a Sand Creek bypass. A remark “We’re going to make a killing out there” was heard.
Another Sandpoint mayor owned commercial property in Ponderay, and he too failed to recuse himself from bypass matters. He and other merchants wanted the highway to be the main street of Ponderay.
The campaign to win the citizens approval of the bypass was probably the dirtiest ever encountered here. There were straw polls listing several options, but not mentioning the west side route. The Idaho Transportation Department showed west side route way out on the Pine Street Loop to scare the homeowners there, and a survey crew was sent out to stake out a centerline through the front yards. When a citizens group sued the state to prevent construction from beginning, the judge let construction start before rendering his decision, thus preventing an appeal.
The ITD also claimed no responsibility for Sandpoint’s internal traffic problems. Now we are stuck with the problems created by sending U.S. 2 traffic through downtown.
Now BNSF is preparing to vastly increase the shipping of fossil fuels through the bottleneck at the City Beach, which will endanger the downtown with long trains of highly volatile oil. Now is the time to pause and consider starting over.
Why not create a transportation corridor for highways and railroads beginning at Algoma Pond at the bend in U.S. 95 (about eight miles south of Sandpoint), continue straight north to near Springy Point, cross the river to near Rocky Point, follow the route of the Great Northern tracks to Bronx Road, connect to U.S. 95, continue east to connect with Highway 200 somewhere beyond Kootenai. This would allow all towns to be free from the noise of transportation, the danger of many intersections and grade crossings, and plenty of room to construct grade separations and other features.
If you agree with any of this, please let the following authorities know immediately.
• Department of Environmental Quality, 2110 Ironwood Drive, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814.
• Department of Lands, 3284 Industrial Loop, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814.
• U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Attn. Shane Slate, 1910 Northwest Blvd., Suite 210, Coeur d’Alene or NWW_BNSF_Pendoreille@usace.mil
JOSEPH HENRY WYTHE