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The U.S. Coast Guard has released a draft environmental assessment (EA) of BNSF Railway Co.'s proposed construction of railroad bridges across Lake Pend Oreille and Sand Creek at Sandpoint in Bonner County, Idaho.BNSF proposes constructing a second mainline track and associated bridges parallel to existing rail bridges that cross the lake and creek. As structures over U.S. navigable waters, the proposed bridges will require a Coast Guard bridge permit.The Coast Guard is soliciting public comments on the proposed projects until March 25, according to a notice on the Federal Register.BNSF proposed the project because the single-track configuration has become an operational constraint, resulting in congestion on the Class I's mainline, yards and sidings as trains wait for clearance to cross the existing single-track bridges, according to the draft EA.Moreover, trains waiting to cross often block vehicular traffic at public and private grade crossings. According to BNSF, the project will relieve the congestion and allow for a more efficient movement of trains through the Lake Pend Oreille region.According to the EA, alternatives considered for the project include a "no action alternative" that would preserve the status quo and a proposed action alternative that satisfies the project's need and purpose. Several additional alternatives include a second mainline track placed east of the existing mainline; alternative routes; and shifting rail traffic to other railroads that were considered and dismissed based on infeasibility and impracticability.
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