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Region Gets Big
Fed Boost to Rails

by Emily Pearce
Capital Press, August 23, 2023

Funds totaling $72.8 million headed for infrastructure upgrades
along Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad

Map: Palouse River and Coulee City Railroad track ownership and trackage rights.  Other railtracks are also in this map. Washington's rail systems will receive millions in federal funds for infrastructure upgrades, with most of the money going to southeastern Washington, according to an announcement by Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell's office Wednesday evening.

The Federal Railroad Administration will allocate $76.8 million to the Washington State Department of Transportation for construction on railroads in the state, according to Cantwell's news release.

The Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad (PCC), located in southeastern Washington, was awarded $72.8 million. The Tacoma Rail in western Washington was given $4.095 million.

Funds were provided to improve the efficiency of the major agricultural corridor, as well as to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Tacoma, according to the news release.

The PCC is a critical part of the Washington Grain Train program, serving more than 2,500 farmers and moving tons of grain to ships at deep-water ports to be shipped overseas, according to the news release from the Democratic senator.

This project is part of a multi-phase effort to improve railroad systems by making them capable of handling heavier and faster rail cars while withstanding extreme weather conditions, according to the news release. Funding will cover 65% of the total project cost, allowing the replacement of lightweight worn rail and rotten railroad ties, as well as rebuilding dilapidated roadway crossings and surface tracks.

The funding will allow trains to safely travel twice as fast on the 297-mile route, making produce reach local and international markets faster, according to the news release.

Additionally, the project will reduce road maintenance, enhance economic development, improve the environment and bring long-term jobs to the region.

"Thanks to this funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, our State of Washington wheat will reach local and international markets faster," Cantwell said in the news release. "The legislation nearly tripled funding for freight rail infrastructure. ..."

The Tacoma Rail will use funds to replace two high-polluting diesel electric switcher locomotives with two zero-emission, battery-electric switcher locomotives, as well as the installation of corresponding onsight charging infrastructure.

The two diesel locomotives are nearly 60 years old, Cantwell said in the news release. Their replacement will reduce maintenance costs and eliminate 1,240 pounds of diesel particulate matter annually, improving local air quality.

In addition to this funding, the Federal Highway Administration allocated $3.645 million and the Tacoma Rail is provided a 34% match.

Both grants awarded to PCC and the Tacoma Rail come from the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program, which funds projects that improve the safety, efficiency and reliability of intercity passenger and freight rail, according to the release.

The U.S. Department of Transportation provided $1.443 billion in grants to 70 projects across the U.S. this year. That's a 290% increase in funding compared to last year, thanks to $1 billion provided to the program from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Cantwell is the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

The agency doesn't yet have a timeline when updates to the Washington railroads will be implemented.

Emily Pearce
Region Gets Big Fed Boost to Rails
Capital Press, August 23, 2023

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