DeFazio Announces $11 Million Federal Grant to Rehabilitate Coos Bay Rail Line
Today, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded the Coos Bay Rail Line $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 created to fund projects that will boost economic growth and support the movement freight throughout our transportation system. Coos Bay’s application was one of only 18 selected for funding among a total of 212 submitted from across the nation. DeFazio supported the project and requested the DOT grant in a May 2016 letter sent to the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. He also personally spoke to the DOT Deputy Secretary Victor Mendez last month asking that this project be funded.
“This is great news for southwest Oregon. This project will create good, living-wage jobs and spur needed economic development in rural communities that have struggled for decades. All nine of the tunnels along the line are at or near 100 years old and in desperate need of repair or rehabilitation due to deferred maintenance from the previous owners of the line. This funding will greatly improve the safety and reliability of train operations, result in a reduction in emissions and highway congestion as more cargo switches from truck to rail, and offer a long-term, low-cost option for shippers. I congratulate the Port of Coos Bay and look forward to continuing our work to improve this critical transportation link and economic engine for the South Coast,” said DeFazio.
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.
The Port’s grant application proposed a complete rehabilitation of the tunnels along the Coos Bay Rail Line 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 cause deterioration and drainage issues in the tunnels and on the track. Safety concerns over tunnel conditions were cited as the primary reason the line was shut down in 2007.
The funding will be granted in 60 days.
The Coos Bay Line 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. DeFazio also secured $8 million in federal funds in March 2009, to help the Port of Coos Bay buy the rail line. 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.