Wash. State House: $14.5MM for Connell Rail Interchange ProjectWritten by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
The Washington State House has recently included $14.5 million in its proposed 2023-25 Transportation Budget for the Connell Rail Interchange Project, the Connell Rail Interchange Coalition reported on March 28.
According to the Coalition, the $14.5 million (if approved by the Washington State Legislature) would fully construct/complete the Connell Rail Interchange—a key rail interchange in Eastern Washington where the Columbia Basin rail line intersects with BNSF Railway’s Lakeside Subdivision line, which runs between Spokane and Pasco, Wash. The Columbia Basin rail line goes through the heart of the Columbia Basin in eastern Washington and serves Moses Lake, Wheeler, Schrag, Warden, Othello, Royal City, Bruce, and Connell in Grant, Adams, and Franklin Counties.
Over the past several years, the Connell Rail Interchange Coalition says, “a significant amount of economic development and growth has been occurring in communities on the Columbia Basin rail line, especially in Grant and Adams Counties.” Consequently, the Columbia Basin rail line has become “one of the busiest rail short lines in Washington State, hauling thousands of loads of various agricultural, industrial commodities and other cargo annually for 60 active rail shippers in the Columbia Basin, which employ nearly 7,000 people in Grant and Adams Counties,” the Coalition added.
The nearly $15 million in funding, the Coalition says, follows Washington Gov. Jay Inslee including $14.5 million in his 2023-25 Proposed Transportation Budget late last year, as well as dozens of letters being sent from various counties, ports, cities, EDCs, companies, railroads and other entities to Gov. Inslee and Washington State Legislature in support of the Connell Rail Interchange Project. Rep. Tom Dent, who represents the 13th Legislative District and is a member of the House Transportation Committee, was also instrumental in helping to get this funding included in the proposed House Transportation Budget, according to the Coalition.
The $14.5 million includes $10 million in funding already appropriated by the Legislature in 2015, plus an additional $5 million in the 2023-25 biennium for an actual total of $14.5 million that would be available, reflecting the approximately $500,000 in funds that have already been expended for design and engineering since 2015.
According to the Connell Rail Interchange Coalition, the configuration of the interchange is “outdated and inefficient,” and needs to be “upgraded and improved to accommodate current and future growth in rail cargo that is flowing to and through Connell.”
As the track and infrastructure design for the Connell Rail Interchange Project is 100% completed, this project is ready for construction, according to the Coalition. As a result, the Coalition adds, there is “strong support” for the nearly $15 million in Gov. Inslee’s 2023-25 Transportation Budget and in the Washington State House 2023-25 proposed Transportation Budget for this “critical economic development, freight rail, and freight mobility infrastructure project.”