Bridging the Valley
What is Bridging the Valley?
Bridging the Valley (BTV) is a study conducted in 2006 that proposed separating vehicle traffic from train traffic in the 42 mile corridor between Spokane, WA and Athol, ID. A map of the corridor and proposed project sites within it can be viewed below.
The separation of railroad and roadway grades in this corridor—which includes 75 railroad/roadway crossings— was aimed at promoting future economic growth, traffic movement, traffic safety, and train whistle noise abatement.
What is the Status of BTV?
The priority of BTV projects continues to be evaluated by regional decision makers, especially in light of severely limited transportation funding resources and the need to secure commitment from the railroads. The recent Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP), Horizon 2040, recommends projects and programs to be completed between 2014 and 2040. The list of recommended projects includes three BTV projects that are considered "regionally significant." SRTC classifies a project as regionally significant if it:
- Cannot be grouped in the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) and or State TIP, and/or is not listed as an exempt project type in the Environmental Protection Agency's regional transportation conformity regulation (40 C.F.R. part 93); and
- Is on a facility which serves regional transportation needs (federally classified as a principal arterial or higher) and alters the number of through-lanes for motor vehicles, or impacts a freeway or freeway interchange (other than maintenance projects); or
- Is a new or extended fixed guideway transit service (dedicated bus lanes, vehicle track or wires) or capital expenditures related to a new fixed-route transit service on a facility which serves regional transportation needs (federally classified as principal arterial or higher), or
- Is determined by the SRTC Policy Board to be regionally significant or have the potential for adverse emissions impacts for any reason.
The most recent BTV project to be completed is the Havana Street Bridge, constructed by the City of Spokane in 2012. The three regionally significant BTV projects listed in Horizon 2040 are the Barker Road Overpass, the SR27/SR290 Underpass and the Sullivan Road Bridge. The remaining BTV projects do not, at this time, fit the definition of regionally significant and therefore are not listed in Horizon 2040. That could change in the future and with updates to the MTP in coming years.
What Improvements Does BTV Offer?
By removing all the identified at-grade rail crossings, Bridging the Valley proposes to:
- Improve public safety by reducing rail/vehicle collisions;
- Improve emergency access to residents and businesses along the corridor;
- Eliminate waiting times for cars and trucks at rail crossings;
- Reduce noise levels, especially train whistles near crossings;
- Improve traffic flow due to separated grade crossings; and
- Enhance development opportunities with a single rail corridor served by the region’s largest railroads.
What Projects Does BTV Recommend?If constructed in its entirety, BTV proposes to:
- Construct approximately 19 separated grade crossings within the BNSF corridor. This will modify eight existing crossings and create approximately 11 additional grade separated crossings.
- Construct additional track capacity on the BNSF corridor between Spokane and Athol, which currently consists of both single and double mainline track. This area will be expanded by generally adding one track — with occasional need for two additional tracks in some locations
— to the existing mainline within the railroad right of way;
- Install improvements to the existing Centralized Train Control signaling system;
- Construct a new two-track bridge over the Spokane River;
- Construct a new UPRR Yard;
- Provide other track improvements in yards and connections; and
- Remove a majority of the UPRR mainline and the associated crossings.
The map below shows the overall alignment of projects and associated roadway and railroad grade crossings. Click on each of the grade crossings for more information and detail or click the link below the map for the fact sheet for each individual project.
What is the Timeline?
As of late 2013, there is no substantial funding available to construct any of the proposed BTV projects.There is a small amount of money allocated to two future BTV projects; the Barker Road project has received $1 million in earmarks and there is $5 million in federal funding available to put toward the Pleasantview Road BTV project in Idaho. Those projects have not been started, or scheduled, as that money will only fund a portion of each project.
It is not clear at this time when money will be available to move forward with any BTV projects.