Rail line's woes and foes

| Print |  Email
Saturday, December 01, 2007

RailwayTracks.jpg

COOS BAY After unexpectedly shutting down traffic on a rail line between Eugene and Coos Bay this fall, the Boca Raton, Fla., company RailAmerica wants to form a public and private partnership to fund as much as $30 million in repairs to three of the line’s 125-year-old tunnels — a suggestion that Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) slammed as an attempt to “extort” millions from the Port of Coos Bay and Oregon taxpayers.

The 126-mile Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad is a critical link for shippers such as Georgia-Pacific, Roseburg Forest Products and Reedsport’s American Bridge. According to estimates from the Port of Coos Bay, the line carries about 7,500 cars a year. After RailAmerica stopped traffic on Sept. 21 with no warning, Georgia-Pacific laid off 120 workers from its Coos Bay sawmill, and the Port of Coos Bay filed a $15 million lawsuit against the rail company for not giving the port enough notice of the closure.

State senators and representatives blasted company officials, going so far as to accuse RailAmerica of trying to pressure the state to fund the repairs. DeFazio held meetings with the U.S. transportation secretary and the director of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

Company CEO John Giles is part of an investment group that bought RailAmerica, which owns 43 short-line railroads around the nation, last February. A few months before he took over, RailAmerica had spent $2 million in repair work on a single tunnel on the Coos Bay line. “It’s important for everyone to know that this problem didn’t pop up [this year]. The history is that there have been chronic problems,” he says.

The latest inspection report from RailAmerica’s engineering firm, which is dated July 16, strongly suggests the company make immediate repairs in three tunnels where support timbers — some of which are an estimated 95 years old — are rotten and rocks are falling. Giles says that report, which was reviewed by the company’s own engineer for several months after it was generated, was the impetus for the sudden closure. A subsequent inspection performed by the FRA in October validated RailAmerica’s findings, reporting that, “All three tunnels need immmediate repairs to permit the safe resumption of railroad operations.”


Marin Callery, the director of freight mobility at the port of Coos Bay, says no one is questioning that the rail line needs work. The port’s immediate concern, he says, is that shippers have a way to move their freight. DeFazio’s office is looking at the long-term economic impact; chief of staff Penny Dodge says there are worries the company may be trying to abandon the railroad.

Because there are multiple stakeholders, Giles says, there should be shared fiscal responsibility for its repair. “If you want us to open tunnels, we’ll put up our hand and offer our pro rata share, but you have to be prepared to step forward, state of Oregon,” he says. “You have to be willing to step forward, shippers. You have to be willing to step forward, Coos Bay.”     

ABRAHAM HYATT


Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

Reader Input: School Choice

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015

Which of the following would be most effective in reducing the cost of operating a public university in Oregon?


Read more...

The 10 most successful crowdfunding campaigns in Oregon

The Latest
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
081915-crowdfundingmainBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

One of the hottest new investment trends has proven quite lucrative for some companies.


Read more...

Ranking the airlines that fly PDX

The Latest
Friday, August 14, 2015
airlinesthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

17 airlines make stops at Portland International Airport, but not all are created equal when it comes to customer service.


Read more...

Storyteller in Chief: Natural Prophets

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY SAM BLACKMAN

Storyteller-in-chief with the CEO and co-founder of Elemental Technologies.


Read more...

Store Bought

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Market of Choice is on a tear. In 2012 the 35-year-old Eugene-based grocery chain opened a central kitchen/distribution center in its hometown. The market opened a third Portland store in the Cedar Mill neighborhood this year; a Bend outpost broke ground in March. A fourth Portland location is slated for the inner southeast “LOCA” development, a mixed-use project featuring condos and retail. Revenues in 2014 were $175 million, a double-digit increase over 2013. CEO Rick Wright discusses growth, market trends and how he keeps new “foodie” grocery clerks happy.


Read more...

Brain Storm

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY CAMILLE GRIGSBY-ROCCA

Can the brave new world of neurotechnology help an OHSU surgeon find a cure for obesity?


Read more...

5 questions for ImpactFlow CEO Tyler Foreman

The Latest
Thursday, August 13, 2015
impactflowthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Portland-based startup ImpactFlow recently announced a $5.7 million funding round. CEO and co-founder Tyler Foreman talks about matching businesses with nonprofits, his time at Intel and the changing face of philanthropy.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS