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Freight rail contributes $28.5 billion to Washington state's economy annually, the same amount as a full decade's worth of economic growth, according to a University of Oregon study commissioned by BNSF Railway Co. and the Washington Council on International Trade.The value of Washington's annual exports rank fourth-most in the nation after Texas, New York and California, the study shows. The state exported about $11,000 per capita in 2012 compared with the national average of $5,000.BNSF plans to spend $235 million in Washington this year to expand capacity and maintain its lines — $110 million more than the railroad budgeted last year, according to media reports posted on the council's website. The projects include a second mainline at locations between Cheney and Mesa, including 17 miles of new track along an existing line between Pasco and Spokane.Washington is at the end of rail lines used to move goods from 20 states and Canadian provinces, the study shows. The state has the shortest fee route to Asia, the fastest-growing portion of the world, where an enlarging middle class represents a significant market for goods exported from Washington, according to the study.In addition, goods that pass through Washington benefit other states because of jobs created by transportation, study authors conclude.
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