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. The PCC Railroad operates the PV Hooper Branch, the Eastern Washington Gateway Railroad operates the CW Branch, and the Washington and Idaho Railway operates the P & L Branch. Private railroads contract with WSDOT to operate each of the branches.

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.

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. The PCC Railroad operates the PV Hooper Branch, the Eastern Washington Gateway Railroad operates the CW Branch, and the Washington and Idaho Railway operates the P & L Branch. Private railroads contract with WSDOT to operate each of the branches.

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 Bob Westby, 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.

Picture of the side of a yellow grain train car moving along a field with blue skies

Operations began in 1994 and currently has 125 grain cars in the fleet. The Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF Railway Company and Washington short-line railroads operate the cars and carry the grain to market.

Starting the Washington Grain Train program

In the early 1990s, a national shortage of rail hopper cars made it difficult and expensive for Washington state farmers to get grain to market. To help alleviate this shortage of grain cars, the Washington State Energy Office and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) used federal funds to purchase 29 used grain cars to carry wheat and barley from loading facilities in eastern Washington to export facilities in western Washington and Oregon.

Picture of a grain train car in front of a silo with blue skies

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.

Communities served by the Washington Grain Train

The Washington Grain Train collects wheat and barley from grain elevators in eight cities in eastern Washington. These include: Warden, Schrag, La Crosse, Prescott, Endicott, Willada, St. John, and Thornton. The grain is transported to export facilities in Kalama, Tacoma, Seattle, Vancouver, WA, and Portland, OR.

How well is the program performing today?

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.

14 fish passage projects were completed in 2020

improving access to 54.2 miles of upstream habitat.

11,959 incidents responded to

by WSDOT’s incident Response teams during second quarter of 2021, 15% more than same quarter in 2020.

41 Pre-existing Funds Projects Advertised

during the eighth quarter of the 2019-2021 biennium.