Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Jana Mathia
Gazette Reporter 

State will spend $11.3 million plus on area rails


May 16, 2019

After years of bandaid fixes, the Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad is on track for repair and rehabilitation to make it a solid rail system.

“It is kind of exciting,” said Bob Westby, PCC rail system manager.

The rail line now has $11,333,963 in funding to replace ties, rail, ballast and 10 bridges to support the 110 car unit trains serving grain terminals on both ends of the county.

Westby explained that rail is measured by the weight per yard. Heaviest rail is 136 to 140 pounds per yard. The PCC rail is a “hodge-podge” of old rails, some still in the 70 to 85 pound-per-yard range.

To support the heavier trains, sections of track and bridges will be repaired and rehabilitated to support speeds of up to 25 miles per hour and freight cars weighing 286,000 lbs. Westby noted that instead of a whole-hog replacement, work will be constrained to areas that need to be brought up to standard.

“A lot of the rail is not bad,” he commented.

The work is being funded by $5.3 million from the state, $5.6 million from a federal BUILD grant and contributions totaling $335,000 from grain companies and the Port of Whitman.

“There’s a lot of money being put into being able to ship by rail,” Westby said, noting multi-million dollar grain terminals like McCoy and Endicott and the $30 million terminal near Four Lakes.

The work will be done in two stages. The first focuses on rail improvements from Hooper to LaCrosse slated for this summer. Then the federal funds will kick in to cover the work from LaCrosse to Endicott next year.

More than 20,000 ties and almost 15 tons of ballast are estimated to be used in the work which includes replacing about 4.6 miles of rail and rehabilitating nearly 16.3 miles of track structure.

The bridges are all located on the P&L segment which runs from Marshall to south of Palouse. Nearly half of the funds will be spent on the P&L line with the PV Hooper branch spending $2.4 million and $4 million on the CW branch from Coulee City to Cheney.

According to the BUILD grant project sheet, the increased operating speeds and heavier load capacity will increase operational efficiency and lower shipping costs while also reducing fuel usage and emissions with the shift from truck hauling to rail.


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