The Oregon Transportation Commission has approved nearly $12 million in funding for rail projects statewide.
The five rail investments are among 39 total approved multimodal non-highway projects totaling at $49,518,726 in funding, allocated through the ConnectOregon VI program.
Among the awarded applicants concerning rail projects are Union Pacific Corporation & Subsidiaries, Marion Ag Services, Inc., Morrow County Grain Growers, Inc., LRY, LLC and Wallowa Union Railroad Authority.
The commission approved Union Pacific’s application for about $8.3 million to fund its Portland Passenger-Freight Rail Speed Improvement Project, which was the highest monetary award to any of the rail applicants.
Union Pacific’s project proposal stated that the project is intended to reduce passenger and freight rail wait times by up to 21 minutes per train with the completion of track, signal and elevation improvements “at a critical BNSF/UP junction in the Portland rail network.” The proposal also said the project will remove the need for an existing 10 mph speed limit that currently causes delays for the 35 daily Amtrak, UP and BNSF trains that travel along the junction.
Morrow County Grain Growers received $2.5 million for its Boardman Grain Elevator Unit Train Unloading Project with a total cost estimated at $6.5 million. In its application for the award, Morrow Country proposed to expand the existing track to barge grain-handling facility to accommodate the unloading of unit trains of grain coming to markets in the Pacific Northwest from the Midwest or the country.
“The expanded facility would then be able to reload this grain to barge for export or to supply the increasing demand from local dairies and feedlots with grain for feed,” the proposal stated.
Marion Ag Service received its requested amount of $498,565 for its Marion Ag Service Rail Spur project a rail spur reaching 5,400 feet that will consist of three tracks to serve a new 28,000-ton bulk fertilizer storage and blending facility.
“The new facility adds needed rail and storage capacity, adds 22 new jobs, takes trucks off highways and lowers cost for Oregon businesses,” the proposal also noted.
Wallowa Union was awarded $350,000 for its application to complete the Elgin Complex Rail Spur Repair project. Wallowa Union’s proposal focused on replacing an 85-lb. rail currently running from the rail spur to the Elgin complex mills with 136-lb. rail.
“The upgrade is required because the Elgin complex has been utilizing the bigger 286k rail cars to ship out plywood and lumber,” the proposal read. “Along with this, the complex will [be] replacing the damaged railroad ties and resurfacing a half mile of lead track.”
LRY received $325,000 toward its Lake Railway 5,000 Ties to Support Growth project to purchase the 5,000 crossties.
“These ties will be installed throughout the county’s 55-mile long railroad,” the proposal noted.
Modal and regional committees received 75 applications for ConnectOregon VI, requesting a total of $88,402,249 in funding. Officials say lottery-backed bonds generated more than $380 million of the funds for the projects.
Projects were required to meet certain standards to qualify for monetary awards, such as aiming to reduce transportation costs for Oregon businesses, bringing an economic boost to the state, connecting transportation modes, showing preparedness for construction, project cost borne by the applicant as well as showing a worthwhile project life expectancy.
Focusing on non-highway projects, the Oregon legislature initially approved the ConnectOregon program in 2005 and has since funded more than 180 public transit, rail, marine, aviation and pedestrian and bicycle projects throughout the state.
ConnectOregon uses grants for private sector applicants, municipalities, cities, counties, governing organizations and other transportation-related entities.