Chris Herman, WSDOT Freight Systems, 360-705-6921
OLYMPIA ¬–Area farmers seeking new markets are one step closer to a rail shipping option on the Othello to Royal City rail corridor.
The Washington State Department of Transportation selected ARG Transportation (ARG) of Eugene, OR, to operate the 26-mile rail line in central Washington. The goal is to restore the only rail service to a portion of Grant County, assisting farmers getting their products to market.
The state purchased the short rail line in 1993 to prevent it from being abandoned and to preserve rail infrastructure. The line hasn’t been operated since 1994, but it received $750,000 in state-funded repairs after renewed local interest in rail service. Work was completed in 2013.
ARG will spend six months determining the commercial interest from prospective shippers, who currently use a combination of trucking and rail. If results are favorable, ARG will reopen the rail line.
State Rep. Matt Manweller (Ellensburg) said restoring rail service is an important opportunity for farmers and the regional economy.
“I, along with the entire community, am excited that after years of work by the Port of Royal Slope and WSDOT, this project is moving towards completion,” he said. “A rail line out of Royal City will be a boon to economic development and another opportunity for local farmers to get their produce to international markets.”
ARG owns the Coos Bay Rail Link in Oregon, and was named 2014 Short Line Railroad of the Year by Railway Age magazine for restoring an out-of-service rail line and expanding business. WSDOT issued a Request-for-Proposals in February. ARG was chosen based on its experience reestablishing rail lines as well as a business plan to develop competitive rates for shippers.
Rail is critical to keeping both freight and Washington's economy moving, and short lines are an important part of the state's rail network, WSDOT officials said.