Governor Kitzhaber today lauded the reopening of the Coos Bay Rail Link which connects key South Coast manufacturers employing hundreds of Oregonians to their markets and customers in the Willamette Valley and beyond.
In September 2007, the southern Oregon coast economy suffered a significant blow with the closure of the Central Oregon & Pacific Railroad, which runs between Eugene and Coos Bay.
The rail closure impacted more than 700 manufacturing jobs that depend on the line. That's about 40% of manufacturing employment in the affected area. Approximately 6,000 rail cars moved goods from the region to national markets annually.
"The reopening of the Coos Bay Rail Link is an important boost to the South Coast and Oregon's economy," said Governor Kitzhaber. "The partnership between the Port of Coos Bay, the state of Oregon and the federal government delivered a much needed prescription for economic renewal in this part of the state."
"The Coos Bay Rail Link will turn the economic tide of the South Coast," said Co-Speaker Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay). "It's reopening is an important step forward for our communities and will create additional economic growth and new jobs for years to come. After years of working for additional funding and passing legislation to resolve land use conflicts, I am proud to join with the Governor to celebrate its reopening."
The newly reopened rail connection will serve several key area employers including Southport Lumber−which plans to ship about 25 carloads of lumber a week, and Roseburg Forest Products− which could ship another 20 carloads of wood chips a week according to local officials.
In addition, American Bridge in Reedsport, which will host a grand re-opening celebration of the rail link on November 10, will likely benefit from receiving raw materials by rail.
After its closure in 2007, the Port of Coos Bay rallied to buy and reopen the rail line. Thanks to the help of Business Oregon's Infrastructure Finance Authority (IFA) and the federal government, the rail line saw its first train on October 11. The IFA awarded the Port two Special Public Works Fund loans totaling approximately $12.6 million. These loans provided the Port with sufficient funds for purchasing the line in the summer of 2009. The Port subsequently secured additional state and federal funding to pay for repairs.
The Port also received $7.8 million in federal grant money through the Oregon Transportation Commission's Connect Oregon program, which uses money from lottery-backed bonds to pay for improvements to rail, public transit, air and marine and port projects. U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio helped secure $7.2 million in a congressional reallocation of funds to help repay the loan for the initial $16.6 million purchase.
Port officials said it had replaced 2,500 deteriorated railroad ties and 65,000 tons of ballast, and fixed up all nine of the tunnels along the route as part of the project.
The IFA initially helped the Port's required Feeder Line application with $50,000 from the Port Planning and Marketing Fund and $350,000 from the Governor's Strategic Reserve Fund.