Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad to get $72.8 million in upgrades

by Staff report
| October 17, 2023 1:00 AM

OLYMPIA — Two railroads in Washington state, one of them in eastern Washington, will benefit from more than $76 million in infrastructure grants, according to an announcement from U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell.

The Palouse River and Coulee City Railroad will receive the lion’s share of the funding – $72.8 million – for upgrades that will enable it to accommodate larger rail cars safely, according to the announcement. The PCC, at 297 miles the longest shortline railroad in Washington, runs from Coulee City to Cheney, and from a point between Cheney and Spokane to Pullman and then to Hooper, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The PCC project is part of a multi-phase effort to improve the railroad system so it can handle heavier, faster rail cars and better withstand extreme weather conditions, according to the announcement. Grant funding will help replace light-weight worn rail and rotten railroad ties, as well as rebuild dilapidated roadway crossings and surface tracks. Federal funds will cover 65% of the total project cost.

Tacoma Rail received $4.1 million to replace two high-polluting diesel electric switcher locomotives with two zero-emission battery-electric switcher locomotives, in addition to the installation of corresponding onsite charging infrastructure, the announcement said.

Both grants come from the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program, which funds projects that improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of intercity passenger and freight rail, according to the announcement. The U.S. Department of Transportation is providing $1.443 billion in CRISI grants to 70 projects across the nation this year, a 290% increase in funding from last year, through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“Thanks to this funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, our State of Washington wheat will reach local and international markets faster,” Cantwell wrote in the announcement. “The legislation nearly tripled funding for freight rail infrastructure, allowing the Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad to make this upgrade that will allow trains to safely travel twice as fast on sections of the 297-mile route. The railroad is a critical part of the Washington Grain Train program, which serves over 2,500 farmers and moves tons of grain to ships at deep-water ports destined for overseas markets.”