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Coos Bay Rail Needs Overhaul To Handle Coal

April 4, 2012 | OPB
CONTRIBUTED BY:
Amelia Templeton

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  • Empy cars in on the Coos Bay Rail Link line, stopped in front of a sand dune on the North Spit. credit: Amelia Templeton
Empy cars in on the Coos Bay Rail Link line, stopped in front of a sand dune on the North Spit. | credit: Amelia Templeton | rollover image for more

An engineering study found that a rail line between Coos Bay and Eugene needs about 100 million dollars worth of work before it can handle heavier train traffic. The study was paid for by anonymous investors interested in exporting coal from Coos Bay.

The Port of Coos Bay bought the line in 2009, after it was shut down by a Florida company. It’s been back in service for less than a year, moving small amounts of freight for sawmills and timber companies.

Now the Port is considering a proposal from investors to move up to 10 million tons of coal, per year, along the rail line. A Portland engineering firm, David Evans and Associates, evaluated the line, and found it needs repairs and upgrades. The short line includes 107 bridges, and many show signs of rust and rot. The line also lacks key sidings— short parallel sections of track that allow two trains to pass.

The study found the rail line will require a minimum of $95 million in upgrades to move a scaled-down cargo of 6 million tons of coal a year, or roughly 1 loaded coal train, 135 cars long, per day. The estimated price tag for preparing the rail for a full-scale operation moving on average two loaded coal trains per day was between $156 and $209 million.

According to David Koch, CEO of the Port of Coos Bay, public funds would not be used to make upgrades to the rail line.

“Whoever is moving unit train commodities on the rail line is going to be 100 percent responsible for paying for the upgrades that are necessary to handle that traffic,” Koch said.

The Port has signed a confidentiality agreement, and has not named the investors interested in building a coal export terminal in Coos Bay.

© 2012 OPB
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