A new federal grant will help double the average speed on a freight rail line that links Eugene to Coos Bay.
The Port of Coos Bay operates the 134-mile route, which mostly carries timber, grain and other bulk commodities. The $9.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation will go toward replacing ties and ballast, which the port said will increase safety and reliability of the trains.
Port CEO John Burns said it will also allow the trains to go faster. And he said that will make the port’s customers happy.
“The faster we go, the more train cars we can move, the more they’re going to be able to utilize that service to get their goods to market,” he said.
Burns said right now it takes an entire day to get from Coos Bay to Eugene on the line, since the average speed of the trains is 10 mph. He said the work funded by the grant will allow average speeds of 20 mph, cutting the time it takes to complete the journey in half.
"It should give us an increased advantage over trucks," he said. "It makes us more competitive from a time standpoint with trucking."
He said ultimately, with additional work on bridges and tunnels, the rail line could see trains average nearly 45 mph.
The line had sat unused for about four years before the Port purchased the route and re-opened it to freight traffic in 2011. The rail cars on the route connect to and from Union Pacific freight trains in Eugene, enabling them to reach destinations across the country and Canada.