UPDATE: Critical BNSF Bridge in North Idaho Closed

A Chicago-bound Z train crosses BNSF’s 4,769-foot bridge across Lake Pend Oreille into Sandpoint, Idaho, on July 25, 2020. Photo by Bruce Kelly.

UPDATE: Critical BNSF Bridge in North Idaho Closed

Updated: May 3, 3:35 p.m. PST

By Railfan & Railroad Staff

SANDPOINT, Idaho — Rail traffic on BNSF Railway’s busy main line to the Pacific Northwest is moving again after emergency repairs were made on the railroad’s bridge over Lake Pend Oreille near Sandpoint, Idaho. 

The bridge over Lake Pend Oreille hosts dozens of trains a day, including Amtrak’s Empire Builder between Portland/Seattle and Chicago. It’s located just west of the junction between BNSF’s former Great Northern main line and the former Northern Pacific main line (now Montana Rail Link). 

The structural issues were discovered on Monday and the bridge reopened Tuesday morning. Amtrak announced late Monday that the Empire Builder would be suspended between Spokane and Whitefish, Mont. 

This is not the first time BNSF has had issues with the bridge at Sandpoint, which stretches 4,800-feet and was built by the NP in 1905. In 2016, the bridge was closed twice so emergency repairs could be made. During at least one of those closures, Amtrak was detoured over the Union Pacific’s former Spokane International route between Sandpoint and Spokane. 

The bridge over Lake Pend Oreille has long been a chokepoint for BNSF and a second bridge is currently being built across the lake. 

This story will be updated when additional information becomes available. 

This article was posted on: May 2, 2022