Georgia-Pacific West and other southern Oregon commodity shippers remember the devastating embargo of freight rail service in September 2007. The closure, from Vaughn in Lane County to the North Spit of lower Coos Bay, was coupled with discontinued service on rail spurs that served Roseburg Forest Products in Coquille and Southport Forest Products on the North Spit, forcing shippers to truck product at significantly higher costs.
The Oregon International Port of Coos Bay took action to secure service for regional manufacturers by acquiring and re-opening the rail line in western Lane, western Douglas and Coos counties.
The port raised $31 million to rehabilitate the Coos Bay Rail Link, including a $7.8 million ConnectOregon III grant and a $13.5 million federal Transportation Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) II grant.
“These grants were necessary to fund rail projects tending to years of deferred maintenance,” says Port Commission President Dave Kronsteiner. “Without state and federal funding, reopening the rail line, a vital multimodal connection point for Oregon’s South Coast, would have been impossible.”
Trestles, bridges, rail, ties and ballast were all repaired, restoring the line so trains can travel 25-40 miles per hour, reducing the time and cost to get goods to market. Coos Bay Rail was named Shortline Railroad of the Year in 2014. The port’s success with ConnectOregon began in 2006, when its partnership application with Southport Forest Products obtained $506,000 to help redevelop a heavy-lift barge slip, creating a multimodal barge facility with access to rail and road. The facility now handles ocean-going cargo barges able to move inbound logs, outbound woodchips and a variety of break bulk (individually loaded) general cargo.
“This barge operation increases Southport Forest Product’s abilities to handle multiple products, better control transportation costs and grow our customer base,” says owner Jason Smith.
“ConnectOregon has been instrumental in supporting transportation infrastructure development across the state,” says State Representative Caddy McKeown, D-Coos Bay. “It’s a program that makes a real difference for Oregonians, particularly in our rural areas.”