BNSF proposes new rail bridge near Sandpoint: residents express - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

BNSF proposes new rail bridge near Sandpoint: residents express safety concerns

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Possible new rail bridge coming to Sandpoint Possible new rail bridge coming to Sandpoint
SANDPOINT, Idaho -

In July of 2013, an oil train derailed in Quebec, Canada, killing 47 people. In December of 2013, an oil train derails outside of Casselton, North Dakota spilling 400 thousand gallons of crude oil. In 2013 alone, 1.15 million gallons of crude oil were spilled, that's compared to the 800 thousand gallons spilled from the mid 1970s up until 2012. This information comes from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The oil industry has come under fire since the big oil boom in western North Dakota, and shipping by rail has many towns concerned with safety, Sandpoint being one of them. BNSF recently announced they were looking to build a second rail bridge to increase shipping efficiency in the area and alleviate congestion.

Sandpoint Fire Department Captain Jake Hilton says the department has dealt with train derailments in the past, but a new rail bridge could increase the possibility of that happening: "I'm concerned about the potential for the increased train traffic. As it is, Sandpoint has a lot of trains going through it on a daily basis and I think it's going to get worse and worse as the crude oil gets transported."

BNSF Spokesperson, Gus Melonas says rail traffic will only increase if demand for certain products like oil and coal are high.

Since the city has no say in whether or not the rail company puts in a new rail bridge, first responders are forced to be reactive. Hilton says they're capable of responding, but would also need the help of additional resources, many of which are hours away.

But Hilton says he's confident in the company's safety measures after the company sent him to a safety class regarding bakken oil and train derailments over the summer. "I was absolutely impressed with the measures the train company goes through to make sure the cars are safe," says Hilton.

To help with response time and efficiency, Melonas says the company is working to bring an oil containment trailer to Sandpoint early next year.

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