Freight rail - Projects & progress

Performance analysis

2022

WSDOT closes out rural rail rehabilitation project, starts to make slope repairs at seven landslide-prone sights

After beginning construction in 2020, WSDOT's Washington State Rural Rail Rehabilitation project—funded by a $5.6 million Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation—was closed out in 2022.

This $5.6 million WSDOT project was awarded the grant in 2018 and improves strategically significant sections of the 298-mile, state-owned Palouse River and Coulee City short line rail system in eastern Washington. State and local funds were used to match the federal grant monies, providing a total of $11.2 million for capital improvements.

WSDOT and BNSF use federal grants for landslide mitigation projects

WSDOT and BNSF Railway were awarded three separate federal Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grants in 2018, 2020 and 2021 to reduce the risk of landslides at landslide-prone sites along railroad tracks between Seattle and Everett.

Two projects were funded with the 2018 grant, and they are currently under design with construction scheduled in 2023. The 2020 grant is currently in the agreement stage and will address landslide hazards at five additional locations. The 2021 grant is still being scoped. Work includes constructing walls to stop debris from reaching tracks, enhancing slope stabilization and making drainage improvements, and adding slide warning fences.

Palouse River and Coulee City Rail System

The PCC is the largest short line freight rail system in Washington, serving five eastern Washington counties: Grant, Lincoln, Spokane, Adams, and Whitman. The WSDOT-owned system allows farmers and growers to ship their agricultural products via rail from their more remote locations, thus connecting them with larger railroads, barges and container ships for distribution throughout the world.

Salmon Bay Bridge awarded federal grant

In 2022, it was announced that WSDOT will be receiving a $25 million federal Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant to rehabilitate the Salmon Bay Bridge, north of Seattle over the Ballard locks. BNSF Railway is funding the remainder of the $110 million project.

This project is not included in the 40 rail projects currently underway since the funds have not yet been awarded to the state.

2021

WSDOT completes rural rail rehabilitation project, starts to make slope repairs at seven landslide-prone sights

After beginning construction in 2020, WSDOT's Washington State Rural Rail Rehabilitation project—funded by a $5.6 million Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation—was completed in 2021.

This $5.6 million WSDOT project was awarded the grant in 2018 and improves strategically significant sections of the 298-mile, state-owned Palouse River and Coulee City short line rail system in eastern Washington. State and local funds were used to match the federal grant monies, providing a total of $11.2 million for capital improvements.

WSDOT and BNSF use federal grants for landslide mitigation projects

WSDOT and BNSF Railway were awarded both a 2018 and a 2020 federal Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant to reduce the risk of landslides at seven landslide-prone sites along railroad tracks between Seattle and Everett.

Two projects were funded with the 2018 grant and they are currently under design with construction scheduled in 2022. The 2020 grant will address landslide hazards at five additional locations. Work includes constructing walls to stop debris from reaching tracks, enhancing slope stabilization and making drainage improvements, and adding slide warning fences.

Palouse River and Coulee City Rail System

The PCC is the largest short line freight rail system in Washington, serving five eastern Washington counties: Grant, Lincoln, Spokane, Adams, and Whitman. The WSDOT-owned system allows farmers and growers to ship their agricultural products via rail from their more remote locations, thus connecting them with larger railroads, barges and container ships for distribution throughout the world.

2020

WSDOT leverages state and private funds to obtain federal freight rail grants

In 2018, WSDOT's Washington State Rural Rail Rehabilitation project was awarded a $5.6 million Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Construction began in 2020 and is expected to be completed in 2021.

This WSDOT project will improve strategically significant sections of the 298-mile state-owned Palouse River and Coulee City short line rail system in eastern Washington. State and local funds are matching the federal grant monies, providing a total of $11.2 million for capital improvements.

WSDOT and BNSF match federal funds for landslide mitigation

WSDOT and BNSF Railway are matching a 2018 federal Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant to support a more than $10.9 million investment to reduce the risk of landslides at six landslide-prone sites along railroad tracks between Seattle and Everett. Four projects funded with this grant have been completed and two are expected to begin construction in summer 2021. Work includes walls to stop debris from reaching tracks, slope stabilization and drainage improvements, and slide warning fences.

WSDOT awards federal funds for new Ridgefield freight rail overpass

In December 2019, WSDOT awarded the construction contract for a $900,000 federally-funded project for a new freight rail overpass in Ridgefield, which will provide waterfront access for motorists and pedestrians. The project is currently under construction in Clark County.

Palouse River and Coulee City Rail System

The PCC is the largest short line freight rail system in Washington, serving five eastern Washington counties: Grant, Lincoln, Spokane, Adams, and Whitman. The WSDOT-owned system allows farmers and growers to ship their agricultural products via rail from their more remote locations, thus connecting them with larger railroads, barges and container ships for distribution throughout the world.

2019

WSDOT undertakes federally-funded work on short line railroad

WSDOT's Washington State Rural Rail Rehabilitation project was awarded a $5.6 million Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2018. A contractor was selected to undertake the work in 2019 and construction is expected to begin in 2020.

This WSDOT project will improve strategically significant sections of the 298-mile state-owned Palouse River and Coulee City short line rail system in eastern Washington. State and local funds will match the federal grant monies, providing a total of $11.2 million for capital improvements.

Planned improvements include replacing or rehabilitating 10 bridges, replacing 4.6 miles of track and rehabilitating 20.8 miles. These projects are expected to improve reliability, increase speeds and reduce the potential for incidents on the line by helping maintain it in a state of good repair.

WSDOT selects new operator for section of PCC

In 2019, WSDOT selected Omaha Track as the new operator of the P&L Branch line, a section of the state-owned Palouse River and Coulee City short line rail system in eastern Washington. WSDOT selected Omaha Track through a competitive process and signed a 10-year contract in summer 2019. On August 5, 2019, the Nebraska-based railroad company assumed control of the P&L, which runs from the Idaho state line near Pullman to Marshall (just south of Spokane).

The P&L is one of three lines in the PCC rail system. The other two are the PV Hooper Branch in Whitman County, operated by Palouse River and Coulee City Railroad, and the CW Branch between Cheney and Coulee City, operated by Washington Eastern Railroad. Visit Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad (PCC) for more information.

WSDOT adds 25 rail cars to the Grain Train in 2019

An additional 25 rail cars joined WSDOT's Grain Train program in 2019, bringing the total to 125 cars in operation. The cars are divided into four fleets of between 20 and 40 rail cars apiece, each operating on a different short line track. WSDOT owns the Grain Train cars and maintains them in coordination with the operators.

Washington Grain Train ships over 2,600 carloads of grain in 2019

The Washington Grain Train shipped 2,604 rail carloads of grain in 2019—over double the 1,083 carloads shipped in 2018 and 29% more than the 2,011 carloads shipped in 2014. One rail carload is approximately 100 tons, or about three to four truckloads.

The Grain Train frequently sees large fluctuations in the amount of grain shipped due to factors such as the variable nature of harvests and changes to the short rail lines on which Grain Train cars travel. For instance, in 2019 two of the four short line railroads that use the Grain Train cars transitioned to new operators. Since its inception in 1994, the program also has shifted from moving grain directly to deep water ports to moving it to shuttle elevators (high capacity, high-speed grain loading facilities that help get goods to international markets).

2018

WSDOT gets federal grant funds for short line railroad

The Washington State Rural Rail Rehabilitation project was awarded a $5.6 million Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grant from the United States Department of Transportation in December 2018. This WSDOT project will improve strategically significant sections of the 298-mile state-owned Palouse River and Coulee City short line rail system in eastern Washington. State funds will match the federal grant monies, providing a total of $11.2 million in capital improvements.

Planned improvements include replacing or rehabilitating 10 bridges, and replacing 4.6 miles and rehabilitating 20.8 miles of track. These projects are expected to improve reliability, increase speeds, and reduce the potential for incidents on the line by helping maintain it in a state of good repair.

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