Oil, coal train worries pack hearing

Print Article

A BNSF Railway train pulling a lengthy string of tanker cars rolls into Sandpoint. (Photo by KEITH KINNAIRD)

SANDPOINT — More than 100 people gathered in a standing room-only City Council council chamber Wednesday evening for a facilitated forum on the anticipated  increase in coal and oil train traffic through Bonner County.

Local officials, including representatives from the city of Sandpoint and Bonner County, generally took a critical view of an increase in railroad traffic. The railroad painted a more rosy picture.

The local economy would likely suffer marginal negative impacts, according to city of Sandpoint’s Jared Yost, including a decline in property values along the railroad corridor, and other impacts.

Comments and concerns from the audience ranged from at-grade delays that might slow emergency response times, to the potential for explosions similar to that which occurred in a small town in Quebec in 2013 that killed 47 people.

Panelist Gary Payton used an aerial map to highlight the similarities to that rail disaster and Sandpoint, outlining a blast radius corridor through Kootenai, Ponderay and Sandpoint, which, if a blast were to occur, would take out sizable portions of those cities.

“The point of these (maps) is to draw attention to potentiality,” Payton said.

But that potentiality is slim, according to rail officials. The Quebec accident was the result of a string of human and mechanical failures that lead to a runaway train that eventually derailed, causing the fateful explosion. American regulations and self-imposed railroad safety standards would prevent a similar event from happening.

“The biggest emphasis is on safety,” Gus Melonas, BNSF regional director of public affairs said.

MRL officials echoed Melonas’ statement.

Railroad officials are expecting new federal regulations regarding oil tanker car designs that would increase safety, which they support. Most train cars are not owned by the railroad, but by the companies which are hauling the goods they carry, such as oil cars, referred to as DOT 111 cars.

“We support a stronger car,” Melonas said.

Railroad officials downplayed the potential for increased train traffic of either coal or oil, noting it is market forces that dictates increases.

Coal and oil were not expected to be a major part of any increase in train traffic, according to BNSF public affairs director Ross Lane.

“The biggest growing segment is in domestic intermodal,” Lane said, referring to train shipments of goods such as lumber or agricultural commodities.

As far as plans to build a second railroad bridge across Lake Pend Oreille, that was more for reasons of efficiency rather than volume, Lane added.

Melonas agreed, noting that efficiency would reduce at-grade crossing delays.

“By building a bridge we will eliminate wait-times,” Melonas told the crowd.

Print Article

Read More News

World stocks follow Wall Street lower on renewed virus fears

AP

February 21, 2020 at 3:19 am | BEIJING (AP) — Global stock markets followed Wall Street lower Friday after a spike in new virus cases in South Korea refueled investor anxiety about China's disease outbreak. Benchmarks in Tokyo...

Comments

Read More

South Korea ups emergency response as viral cases surge

AP

February 21, 2020 at 3:16 am | SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea's government banned major rallies in its capital and declared a health emergency in its fourth largest city as 100 new virus cases were reported Friday, bringing...

Comments

Read More

Stress, rumors, even violence: Virus fear goes viral

AP

February 21, 2020 at 3:02 am | TOKYO (AP) — You might have heard that the fear of a new virus from China is spreading faster than the actual virus. From earnest officials trying to calm a building panic. From your spouse. Fro...

Comments

Read More

Police say 2 killed, 3 injured in Idaho shooting

AP

February 21, 2020 at 1:15 am | CALDWELL, Idaho (AP) — Idaho police say at least two people were killed and three were injured in a shooting at an apartment complex for senior citizens in Caldwell. Caldwell Police Chief Frank W...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(208) 263-9534
PO Box 159
Sandpoint, ID 83864

©2020 Bonner County Daily Bee Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X