Home Archives December 2007 Rail line's woes and foes

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

The barber is back

June 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
BY MIKE GREEN

An old profession is new again.


Read more...

Oregon Business wins awards

News
Monday, June 30, 2014

ASBPEOregon Business magazine won two silver awards for excellence in writing in the National American Society of Business Publication Editors Western region competition.


Read more...

OB Video: Dress for Success

News
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
DFSOBY JESSICA RIDGWAY | OB WEB EDITOR

Dress for Success Oregon promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools.


Read more...

Powerlist: Credit Unions

June 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation about credit unions with the CEOs of Advantis Credit Union and OSU Federal Credit Union, followed by June's Powerlist.


Read more...

Charged ride

June 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
0614launchBY JESSICA RIDGWAY

Brad Baker, CEO and co-founder of Works Electric, is a good husband. His wife, an OHSU employee, sought a more efficient way to commute up Marquam “Pill” Hill, so she asked Baker to build a transportation solution.


Read more...

Hipsters gone wild

June 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
BY JON BELL

A new generation of outdoor apparel companies targets the young and the urban.


Read more...

The role of higher education as K-12 underperforms

Contributed Blogs
Friday, May 30, 2014
ThumbChalkboardBY DEBRA RINGOLD | OB GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Since 1970 the performance of our public education system has steadily deteriorated.


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