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Rail News: Short Lines & Regionals

Columbia Basin Railroad remains a busy short line in Washington state


Columbia Basin Railroad's line from Connell to Moses Lake/Wheeler, Wash., handles 1 million to 5 million tons of freight per year, making the railroad "the busiest short line in eastern Washington," according to a recent freight transportation system report published by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).

Most other short lines in the state handle much less tonnage each year, the report states. Last year, Columbia Basin Railroad began bringing 110-car unit trains of canola seed to Pacific Coast Canola's crushing and oil refining facility at the Port of Warden — the first commercial-scale canola seed crushing operation west of the Rocky Mountains, according to the short line.

"Having the ability to bring in unit trains into Warden … is helping to establish the Port of Warden as a key location in eastern Washington to handle freight, and it is pivotal for our economic development," said Dale Pomeroy, the port's commissioner.

Columbia Basin Railroad also supports the Port of Moses Lake's Northern Columbia Basin Railroad Project, which is designed to enhance and improve rail access to industries in the northern Columbia Basin area near Moses Lake. In addition, facilities in Bruce and Schrag, Wash., are becoming key agribusiness shipping hubs in eastern Washington for products moving by rail, such as grain and fertilizer, Columbia Basin Railroad officials said. The short line is working with Adams County and the Port of Othello to improve rail infrastructure in Schrag and Bruce, they said.

Although business growth and economic development opportunities are encouraging, increased rail traffic on the Connell-to-Moses Lake line means some infrastructure issues will need be addressed at the short line's interchange with BNSF Railway Co. in Connell, Columbia Basin Railroad officials said. There have been discussions among various organizations — such as the Great Northern Corridor Coalition, WSDOT, Washington State Department of Commerce, Grant County Economic Development Council and Adams County Development Council — about how to approach the infrastructure needs, they said.

Founded in 1986 by the Temple Family, Columbia Basin Railroad also operates a line between Yakima and Prosser, Wash., via the Central Washington Railroad.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/5/2014