Port of Moses Lake gets grant to finish railroad

By:  Charles H. Featherstone
Source: Columbia Basin Herald

The Port of Moses Lake was awarded a $9.9 million federal grant allowing the port to complete a railroad project that will increase the ability to ship freight into and out of the port.

The plan would construct 5 miles of track at a cost of about $30 million from Wheeler to the Port of Moses Lake, bypassing the rail line that passes through Moses Lake, allowing manufacturers based in the port to ship by rail instead of shipping by truck.

“The new and improved rail lines will help retain local manufacturers, provide opportunities for business expansion, and attract new industries,” read a press release from U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office.

The grant comes from a special $9.8 billion federal Department of Transportation fund to help state and local governments pay for infrastructure projects. Other projects in the region include street improvement projects in the Seattle area and an I-90 project in Northern Idaho, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s web site.

Jeffrey Bishop, the executive director of the Port of Moses Lake, told the Columbia Basin Herald that the grant also gives the port enough funding to construct a rail loop connecting all of the port’s major manufacturers.

“Theoretically, we have enough money to do everything,” Bishop told the Columbia Basin Herald.

While the port has done survey work on the proposed route from Wheeler to the existing line in Moses Lake, work is now being done to validate that route.

“We have found little things that need to be worked out, and appraisers are out, and we’re getting ready to make offers to buy land,” Bishop said.

According to a statement from the Port of Moses Lake, the project will “extend rail service to 1,500 acres of industrial lands along the Wheeler Industrial Corridor” and will increase shipping and transport opportunities not just for port tenants, but farmers, manufacturers and other industries in the region currently solely reliant on trucks.

In addition to the $9.9 million federal grant, the Port of Moses Lake has also received $21.9 in state funding for the railroad project as well. That funding, part of the state’s transportation budget, is not affected by the current inability of the state legislature to pas a capital budget.