Coos Bay Rail Link Names Train Engine After Congressman Peter DeFazio
Washington, D.C. – At the Coos Bay Railroad Centennial Opening Ceremony in North Bend, Oregon, the Coos Bay Rail Link unveiled a train engine named after Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR). The Coos Bay Rail Link named the engine after DeFazio to honor the critical funding he has delivered to improve this critical transportation link and economic engine for the South Coast.
“Naming a locomotive after Congressman DeFazio was a no-brainer,” said Port of Coos Bay CEO John Burns. “I can't think of anyone more deserving of the honor. He has been there since the beginning, ensuring that we could take ownership of the line, and working overtime to be sure we have had the funding necessary to make it the success it now is.”
Most recently, DeFazio announced in July that he successfully helped the Port secure an $11 million grant from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to rehabilitate crumbling tunnels between Coquille and Eugene.
“We’ve come a long way since the surprise shutdown of the rail line almost nine years ago. Thanks to a huge team effort of private industry, local, state, and federal leaders, the line is now thriving and spurring economic development for Oregon’s coastal communities. I am extremely proud of my work to deliver the federal investments that have funded critical projects to improve the safety and reliability of train operations and created needed jobs in rural Oregon communities. This is a tremendous honor. I thank the Port of Coos Bay for recognizing my efforts and look forward to continuing to work to improve this critical transportation link and economic engine for the South Coast,” said DeFazio.
DeFazio-Coos Bay Rail Line Background
The Coos Bay Link was closed by the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad (CORP) in September 2007, with just one-days’ notice to shippers, resulting in severe economic impacts to businesses in Southwest Oregon.
DeFazio testified before the Federal Surface Transportation Board to encourage them to approve the Port of Coos Bay’s application to force the sale of the line to the Port from CORP. In 2009 the Port was able to purchase the line, thanks in part to $8 million in federal funding DeFazio secured as part of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). In addition, DeFazio was able to help secure $13.5 million for repairs through a Department of Transportation grant in 2010. The Port restored freight rail service in 2011—thanks in large part to investments made by the State of Oregon and the Federal government. These investments have helped move over 24,000 truckloads off the roads and onto the rail line annually. In 2014, the Port of Coos Bay conducted an economic impact study to look at the regional transportation benefits of the Coos Bay Rail Line, and found that the restoration of the rail line saved $1.06 million in improved highway safety, over $766,000 in highway maintenance savings, and emissions savings of $453,000.
In July, DeFazio announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is awarding the Coos Bay Rail Link $11 million to rehabilitate nine crumbling tunnels along the critical rail link between Eugene and Coquille. The grant was awarded through the newly-established Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program, which was established to fund projects that will boost economic growth and support the movement of freight throughout our transportation system. DeFazio supported the project and requested the DOT grant in a May 2016 letter sent to the Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. He also personally spoke to Deputy Secretary Mendez asking that this project be funded.
The grant will fund rehabilitation of the tunnels along the Coos Bay Rail Link to bring them up to a good operating condition. The line traverses nine tunnels over an 82-mile section between Coquille and Eugene, all of which are 100 years old. The age of these tunnels, combined with the general environment of the Oregon coast and the Coast Range Mountains, have caused deterioration and drainage issues of the tunnels and track. Safety concerns over tunnel conditions were cited as the primary reason the line was shut down in 2007.
The Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program was established in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), which passed the United States Congress and was signed into law in December 2015. As the top Democrat on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, DeFazio was a lead negotiator and pushed for the freight program, which dedicated a portion of the overall funding for freight projects in rural communities.