A new report from the Brookings Institution shows that greater Seattle is deeply connected to international trade. Agriculture and energy products produced throughout the Pacific Northwest — including Montana and Idaho — drive much of this. The supply chain connecting the region is a positive story, whereby farming yields in Idaho are equally important as consumer products from abroad.
Undergirding this is a transportation mode worthy of attention: privately owned freight railroads. And what keeps this sector, which takes trucks off the roads in droves and can move a ton of freight 479 miles on a single gallon fuel, moving, is clear: large private investments.
In 2017, BNSF invested roughly $55 million in Idaho. Combined with its western competitor Union Pacific, the two companies will spend some $137 million in Montana this year.
To sustain this spending and positive public impacts, railroads do not seek tax dollars, rather sensible policy.
For instance, residents of Idaho should support BNSF’s efforts in Sandpoint to build a new bridge alongside the existing one. Local businesses will be more competitive if they move products quicker, and reduced congestion on either side of the current bridge will benefit local traffic.
Similarly, the federal government should open more trading markets, not constrain existing ones.
Private freight railroads are committed to the country and the communities we serve. We hope smart policies can enable our future.