Coos Bay Rail Line to Undergo Bridge Rehabilitation

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor, Railway Age
Swing span bridge over Siuslaw River.
Swing span bridge over Siuslaw River.

The Oregon International Port of Coos Bay has received an award of $20 million from the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant program to support rehabilitation of 15 bridge structures along the 134-mile Port-owned and operated Coos Bay Rail Line.

The Coos Bay Rail Line—a short line class III railroad that provides connection to the North American rail network for manufacturing operations in Coos, Douglas, and Lane Counties, and for marine terminals in the Coos Bay harbor—traverses 121 bridges between the interchange in Eugene and end of line in Coquille.

The bridge structures, which vary in type and configuration, include three steel swing span bridges, a variety of steel truss, through plate girder, and deck plate girders spans, concrete box spans, and a multitude of timber trestles. Many of the structures were first built when the line was constructed in 1914 through 1916, and many of the steel structures are now more than 100 years old.

This rehabilitation project, the Port says, will invest a total of $25 million, which includes $5 million in matching funds pledged by the State of Oregon, into key bridge structures on the rail line to upgrade capacity, increase overall safety and reliability on the line, and to extend the useful life of the selected structures for 20 years or more of continuous operations. 

Swing span bridge over the Umpqua River.

The planned work includes repairs and improvements to all three swing span bridges (Coos Bay, Siuslaw River, and Umpqua River), replacement of the Vaughn Viaduct Bridge near Noti, replacement of the Coal Bank Slough bridge in Coos Bay, and upgrades to 10 additional bridges in Lane County in the Wildcat Creek area to “meet planned train load capacities and speed targets necessary to maintain continued traffic growth on the line.”

“Ensuring rail connectivity for the region is critical to maintaining the existing businesses utilizing the line, as well as cultivating an environment which can foster future economic development,” the Port said. The shippers on the line directly employ close to 1,000 people throughout southwest Oregon with family wage jobs, supporting the economic fabric of our community. These businesses, the Port adds, “depend on rail as a competitive transportation option while ensuring adequate capacity to move goods to market.”

This grant award, the Port says, would not be possible without the advocacy and support from Port stakeholders. The proposal was submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) with 40 letters of support, including Southwest Oregon’s Federal delegation, Oregon State Legislators, shippers utilizing the rail line, municipalities, and community leaders.

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