Covenants can be a good thing

By James Richard Johnson
Reader Contributor

When I consider the ecological advantages to trains versus trucks carrying freight across America, I do not find myself opposing a second railroad bridge across the lake near Sandpoint.

But, I believe building a new bridge in Bonner County and Sandpoint should be considered very much like when one buys a condominium: There will be certain covenants that must be agreed to for the good of fellow owners. Imagine each homeowner in Bonner County as being one of the condo owners.

I would suggest that some of the “covenants” that the railroad (Burlington Northern-Santa Fe) must agree to would include:

1. Whatever happens regarding accidents or pollution to the lake or river, in no way can the city or county ever be sued or held liable, even if they vote to approve a new bridge. This includes passenger trains, as well.

2. The new bridge shall be close enough to the old bridge that in the event that railroad cars go off the track or into the lake, a special crane with engine can be quickly moved to the adjacent track to lift the railroad cars. The crane should be parked on a siding permanently to be ready. Also, several barges with motors should be moored in close proximity to the bridges.

3. At several places under the bridges, there should be buoys and markers for boats, and sensor spotlights that would turn on in the dark to light up the boat routes.

4. Every rail car containing flammable or hazardous materials must have a marking on each side so responders to an incident will know instantly whether to move in or draw back, and what the risks are immediately.

5. For approval for the new bridge, there shall be no noise at certain crossings from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. at locations to be determined at public hearings.

6. The crossing on Highway 200 leading to the Bonner Mall shall not be closed.

I do not know if presently trains are limited to one mile or 100 cars in length. An article in The Wall Street Journal dated June 15, 2018 states, “freight trains are on track to stretch up to 3 miles long with 200 cars or more … and it is being powered, in part, by an unusual energy source: the activist investor. Apparently long trains save on fuel and crews, reducing the cost of rail transportation.”

I think that due to occasional mishaps, I would not be in favor of trains any longer than 100 cars being permitted in the collective condominium known as Bonner County, or going over the bridges.

I have stayed in a rental unit in a condo in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico where, as per covenants, I had to sign an agreement that in addition to no loud noise after 10 p.m. and during any time of the day, “there shall be no loud screaming or crying.”

It didn’t say anything about loud laughing, which I always thought would make other people jealous because I might be having more fun than they were.

James Richard Johnson, a 28-year resident of Bonner County, is the author of a poetry collection titled Poems by Rushing Water… Smoothing Glass and Stone to Sand, available on, as well as a fiction novel, It is the Fall.

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