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4/6/2009



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Washington state DOT, short line hammer out operating agreement


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The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) recently completed negotiations with the Eastern Washington Gateway Railroad Co. (EWG) to continue serving as operator of the Cheney-to-Coulee City “CW” Branch of the state-owned PCC Rail System.

WSDOT uses the system to provide local rail service to grain shippers and other businesses, primarily in eastern Washington agricultural areas. In May 2007, the department contracted EWG as the branch line’s operator. The Watco Cos. Inc. operates the PCC systems’ PV Hooper Branch and Washington & Idaho Railway operates the P&L Branch.

Late last year, WSDOT officials expressed concerns about EWG’s finances. In early March, the department issued a “Notice of Termination” of the short line’s operating lease. However, WSDOT and EWG officials continued to discuss solutions despite the notice, which the department now has rescinded.

The new pact sets financial and operational goals EWG must meet to remain the branch line’s operator.

“Everyone is hopeful that EWG will be able to continue to provide the excellent service it is known for, and also to meet its obligations,” said WSDOT Rail and Marine Division Director Scott Witt in a prepared statement.

In 2004, WSDOT purchased the P&L and PV Hooper branch lines’ rights of way and rail; the department bought the CW Branch and remaining rights for other two branches in 2007. Last year, the state formed the PCC Rail Authority to oversee the branch lines.


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