U.S. settles lawsuit with BNSF Railway

August 5, 2018

The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Friday that BNSF Railway has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought on behalf of the Forest Service regarding damage to a paved road on the Kootenai National Forest in 2011.

The Forest Service claimed that BNSF Railway caused 223,119 in 2011 and 2012 for road work, but the suit alleged the railway refused to pay for additional costs.

Under the settlement, the railway will pay the United States 750,000 through 2019 to repair and maintain Forest Service roads located on the Kootenai National Forest that were damaged by its past use. The suit also alleged the railway failed to pay its agreed amount for regular maintenance for Forest Service roads despite that its use of the roads is more than 50 percent of all commercial traffic.

In addition, the railway and the Kootenai Forest entered a Commercial Road Use Permit and a Forest Road Operation and Maintenance Agreement. These agreements will govern the railway’s use of Forest Service roads on the Kootenai National Forest in the future and require the railway to make annual contributions to Forest Service road maintenance.

“I am pleased that we have come to a resolution on this issue and look forward to working with BNSF into the future on the Kootenai National Forest,” added Chris Savage, forest supervisor for the Kootenai National Forest.

Also, the United States alleged the railway has trespassed on numerous Forest Service roads without obtaining the appropriate permits or authority.

“This settlement demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that commercial road users such as BNSF Railway, which utilize public land and roads for their businesses, pay their fair share for the wear and tear they cause to our public resources,” said U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme of the District of Montana. “Our office, in conjunction with the Forest Service, will continue to protect our public resources and ensure that taxpayers are not required to pay for damage caused by a business operating across federal land.

BNSF Railway provided a written statement about the settlement.

“BNSF is pleased to have amicably resolved this issue with the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Attorney’s office to clarify BNSF’s access for the ongoing maintenance and operation of our network. We look forward to continuing our productive working relationship in the future.”

Reporter Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com.

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