BUILD grant to shore up Coos Bay railroad bridges

Written by Stuart Chirls, Senior Editor
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Coos Bay Rail Line swing bridge across the Umpqua River in Reedsport, Ore. The span was built in 1914 by the American Bridge Company. Wikipedia/Doug Kerr

The Oregon International Port of Coos Bay was awarded a $20 million federal grant to rehabilitate 15 bridges along its Coos Bay Rail Line.

Spending for the Coos Bay Rail Line Rehabilitation Project in Coos, Douglas, and Lane counties will total $25 million from a Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant, and $5 million from the Port.

Repairs and improvements will include the Coos Bay Swing Span Bridge; Siuslaw River Swing Span Bridge; Umpqua Swing Span Bridge; Vaughn Viaduct near Veneta; Coalbank Slough Bridge in Coos Bay, and 10 other bridges in Lane County.

The railroad was the Railway Age Short Line of the Year in 2014.

“Ensuring that rail connectivity remains a transportation option 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 in a release. “The shippers on the line employ approximately 964 throughout southwestern Oregon with family wage jobs, supporting the economic fabric of the region. These businesses depend on freight rail transport as an essential component of their business models, offering cost-competitive transportation while ensuring adequate capacity to move goods to market.”

More than 100 years old, the Coos Bay Rail Line links Coquille, Ore., and the national railway network with the Union Pacific interchange yard in Eugene.

The Port purchased and reopened the line in 2011 after a four-year closure. As of November 1, the Port took operation of the rail line in-house to streamline services and increase overall investment in infrastructure.

The Port credited support and advocacy from Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio, and Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, as well as from state representatives, shippers, municipalities, and community leaders.


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