Freight & railway business programs

The economic vitality of Washington state requires a strong rail system capable of providing its businesses, ports and farms with competitive access to national and international markets.

Palouse River and Coulee City (PCC) Rail System

The Palouse River and Coulee City (PCC) Rail System is the longest short-line freight rail system in Washington state, serving five eastern Washington counties: Adams, Grant, Lincoln, Spokane and Whitman. Private railroads contract with WSDOT to operate each of the branches. The PCC Railroad operates the PV Hooper Branch, the Washington Eastern Railroad operates the CW Branch, and the Spokane, Spangle and Palouse Railway operates the P & L Branch.

WSDOT purchased the rights of way and rail for the P & L and PV Hooper branches of the PCC in November 2004. Purchase of the CW Branch and the remaining rights for the other two branches were completed in May 2007. Maintaining these rail lines helps farmers get goods to larger rail lines and on to regional and international markets.

More details are available in the PCC Strategic Plan.

Lease information

WSDOT oversees the facilities and regulatory portions of the operating leases. The PCC Rail Authority - an intergovernmental entity formed by Grant, Lincoln, Spokane and Whitman counties - oversees the business and economic development portions of the operating leases. 

For questions about doing business with the PCC rail system, please contact:

  • PCC Rail Authority Chairman Rob Coffman, 509-725-3031
  • WSDOT PCC Railway Manager Larry Rasmusson, 509-324-6086

Washington Grain Train program

The Washington Grain Train serves over 2,500 cooperative members and farmers in one of the most productive grain-growing regions in the world. It helps carry thousands of tons of grain to deep-water ports along the Columbia River and Puget Sound for transport to ships bound for Pacific Rim markets.

Operations began in 1994 to address shortages in available rail cars to transport Washington-grown grain. The Grain Train program currently has 125 grain cars in the fleet. 

Public benefits of the Washington Grain Train

The Washington Grain Train produces a number of important public benefits. The Washington Grain Train:

  • Helps move Washington products reliably and efficiently to domestic and international markets.
  • Helps preserve Washington’s short-line railroads by generating revenues that may be used to upgrade rail lines and support the railroad’s long-term infrastructure needs.
  • Helps support a healthy rail network that may maintain and attract new businesses in rural areas of Washington.
  • Saves fuel over shipping by truck.
  • Supports air quality improvement initiatives.
  • Helps reduce wear and tear on local roadways by using rail.
  • Was started with federal “seed” money and operates without any taxpayer subsidy.

Managing the Washington Grain Train

WSDOT jointly manages the Washington Grain Train program with the ports of Walla Walla and Moses Lake, and Whitman County. WSDOT oversees the entire program and the port districts collect monthly payments for the use of the program’s 100 cars (Port of Walla Walla collects for the other 18 cars). The ports can use up to one percent of the payments they receive from the railroads for fleet management services.

Use of the grain cars remains strong. Since its beginning in 1994, the Washington Grain Train program has moved more than 5 million tons of grain from Washington to national and international markets.

8,683 animals crossed the Snoqualmie Pass East Project area

as recorded by WSDOT and partners in 2020 and 2021.

46% increase in Amtrak Cascades ridership to 251,000 passengers

in 2021 compared to 172,000 in 2020.

Nine wetland and stream mitigation sites across 32.7 acres added

to our monitoring program in 2021 to help offset climate change impacts.