Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Victoria Fowler
Gazette Reporter 

Port vows support for railcar funding


October 24, 2019

Port of Whitman commissioners Thursday approved a motion to give support to PNW Co-op on their Freight Rail Assistance Program application and match $100,000 with approval of the application.

The support was passed on a 2-0 vote, with Port Commissioner Kammerzell abstaining from the vote for a conflict of interest.

Bud Riedner, PNW Co-op, came before the Port commissioners to request funding and support for the FRAP application to obtain new railcars.

Riedner plans on applying for $900,000 on the application which was due on Oct. 18.

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, FRAP is a grant program. The type of projects must be shown to maintain or improve the freight rail system in the state and benefit the state’s interests.

Riedner said that they would want to get rail cars that they can keep on the short line to scoot wheat.

“One of the primary reasons, for wanting new rail cars, is for scooting,” Riedner said. “This is a very efficient way to move stuff and the scoot cars are actually preferred, from our perspective, because from an efficiency standpoint we can move around 10-15 car blocks. Each rail car is equivalent to approximately four trucks so that takes a lot of traffic off the road for us.”

Riedner also mentioned that new rail cars will have additional cost savings.

“The state-owned cars we have right now are 40-50-year-old cars. These are the 268,000 gross cars,” Riedner said. “Most of these cars are heading to the junkyard and most of them right now are in a lease car situation and they’re not being renewed.”

The type of railcars that Riedner is looking to get are 286,000 gross cars. This type of railcar began production in the early ‘90s and is currently on the lower end of the industry standard, according to Riedner’s remarks.

Riedner was able to get a quote on a 15-year-old railcar that was set at $35,000 and a $5,000 delivery charge. When purchasing new railcars, they can be anywhere around the country and would be hauled to the desired location.

Reidner mentioned that PNW Co-op is applying for this grant because the railcars purchased must be private cars since they will be on the short line and not intended for class one railroads.

“I’m applying for $900,000 and we would buy whatever cars we could with that,” Riedner said. “With any kind of luck we might be able to get more than 20 cars, but I figured 20 cars would be a conservative amount.”

Planning for the future, Riedner plans on upgrading the railcars as they go along and apply for future FRAP monies.

“I was seeking something from the port, because it is my understanding that if you at least have some kind of matching money, you have a much better chance of getting the FRAP application approved,” Riedner said.

Port Commissioner John Love made the motion to go forward with the $100,000 match if the application is approved.

“The $100,000 match is contingent on confirmation of PNW’s receipt of the FRAP award grant funds from WSDOT,” said Brenda Stav, port communications director.

Before a vote was made, Kammerzell made notice that 100 percent of the crop he grows goes to McCoy and PNW and believed his vote would be a conflict since any price savings that happen, he would benefit from such savings.

Riedner said that if PNW Co-op is wanting to be efficient, it would be best to have cars that are state of the art and not what they currently have.

“This is a nice avenue to try and upgrade,” Riedner said. “I thought this would be a good working relationship between the Port and the people that actually have money invested on the line and serve the northern Whitman County farmers.”


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