Since 1970, Washington State's rail system has shrunk from approximately 5,008 route miles to 3,123 miles. Many rural communities and shippers no longer have rail service due to rail line abandonments. Of the remaining rail system in the state, approximately 1,600 miles are light density rail lines that are most vulnerable to abandonments. This document reports the results of a study of means of preserving service on these potentially endangered rail lines.
The changing nature of the rail system, both nationally and in Washington State is documented along with what these changes mean to the public and system stability. The reasons rail lines are abandoned are reviewed and the revenue-cost relationship, the heart of the issue, is discussed at some length including how adjustments in both revenues and costs can impact line viability. Public assistance forms and availability are documented as are the existing and potential roles of various public bodies at both the state and local level. Findings are summarized, conclusions reached stated and recommendations made.