Planning Grant to Help City
by Matthew Weaver
The city of Connell, Wash., has received a $50,000 planning grant to
look into ways to address current and expanding railroad congestion.
A $50,000 planning grant from the state will help the city of Connell, Wash., determine how to resolve a bottleneck for rail traffic in the area.
Using the Community Economic Revitalization Board grant, the city will hire a rail planning consultant, said Jed Crowther, city administrator. The study will be completed by the end of the year.
The short-line Columbia Basin Railroad and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway's Lakeside Subdivision line intersect at an interchange in Connell.
Most longer trains come from the north, but have to enter Connell from the south because of the way the rail interchange is designed. That means trains must travel an extra 35 miles south to Pasco and before returning to Connell.
Pat Boss, a consultant for Columbia Basin Railroad, said his company has problems getting rail cars in and out of Connell because of congestion, and BNSF is building a second track from Spokane to Pasco, Wash., that will run through Connell. The double track is likely to reach Connell within the next year, Boss said.
Boss said possible rail projects at the Moses Lake and Warden port districts will generate even more traffic through the Connell interchange.
"It was built about 80 years ago," Boss said. "It wasn't set up to handle 10,000 rail cars a year."
The Columbia Basin which links Spokane and Pasco, Wash. line's traffic is half regional agriculture and half industrial, he said.
The grant will allow Connell to determine the costs of addressing the railroad bottleneck, Boss said. A Connell rail coalition will put together a request for federal funding, he said.
Crowther said $5 million in construction funding is under review by the state House of Representatives.
"The sooner we can get a formal plan done, the easier it will be to get all of the pieces put together," Boss said. "The good news is we've got everybody talking with each other."
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